Friday, December 21, 2012

My Lowes Point. In which I learn I cannot find studs alone!

I am a fish out of water in home improvement stores.  I walk through the automatic sliding doors, crossing the portal into—Gloria Steinheim, forgive me—Mandom, and I have landed on the moon, or in a swamp, or Nanticoke; somewhere that is clearly, clearly uninhabitable.  The air, it’s heady mix of wood, and oil and GRRR power tools has a chemical composition that is impossible for me to breathe.  That’s it, dear reader, it’s a chemical thing: I drown in home improvement air.

It shouldn’t be foreign to me.  It should be air I can suck on like Michael Phelps does a hookah—I mean, like he does oxygen… when breaking through the surface… when swimming and winning gold—oh what?  Wait.  Nevermind.  The point is, I should not be out of my element here.  Home Improvement is not rocket science.  I’m a woman, that means I actually READ instructions.  I should have this DOWN!

I remember visiting frequently enough as a child and more recently, Friday or Saturday date nights with the ex-Beloved.  Pre- or post- dinner often involved a stop to trawl the aisles of Lowes for some mind-numbing screw, flange or whirligig.  (Perhaps this is why we are ex-?)  

Dating tip #354: when your date is all dressed up and excited to spend time with you, do not add in a “quick trip” to do a chore on the way or return journey.  Firstly, it’s never quick.  Secondly, do you want all the bearded people in Lowes to stare at your sequined and sparkly date like she’s the freak show?  Thirdly, she doesn’t care if you need to spackle your sheetrock.  Spackle can wait.  There are more important sheets to rock.

Since home-owning, not to be confused with ho-moaning, I have counted Self quite lucky.  So sure, I had a run in with the furnace and the local fire department ; I had to change my internal bath tub plug thingy doodah; and I almost decapitated Self when trying to take down an unexpectedly heavy light/fan, but really, I am blessed.  My Lady Lit friend who recently bought her first house had a calamity and schooled me that home-owning was not all it was cracked up to be.  Her sewer pipe backed up and she had to wade through a sea of poo in her basement.  Really, that makes one reframe, doesn’t it?  Everyday I don’t have to be calf-deep in cesspit of piss and shit, must be a good day! 

However, although I grasp a challenge with two manicured, yet determined hands, although I can read, there are things I just don’t know; there are items I just cannot lift; there are heights I just cannot reach.

Take the TV.  Simple enough, you may say.  Nope.  Incorrect, Sir.  Not easy.  It’s a project.  I bought this wangle-dangle TV.  I gave in.  After the torrent of outrage following last week’s blog ( ) that I did not have a screen to place Papa Smurf in front of, I folded and decided, maybe it was time to join 2012 before it ran out.  Sadly, Papa Smurf flew to Blighty the day I bought it, so he has yet to enjoy the technology dans la maison.  Also, I have been doing much entertaining of late and gathering a friend or group of friends to cluster around your much-smudged laptop to watch fuzzy, interrupted youtube clips and re-runs of Dancing with the Stars, does not an equipped host make.  I capitulated.  I surprised Self.  I really did.  I went to a certain grey goods store (it was almost as hard for me to breathe in there as Lowes, but I held my breath and smiled broadly), and I became educated on the difference between plasma, LED and LCD.  Oh yes, people, I know shit now.
After the general spiel, I opted for the Smart LED TV.  Bill explained I could do lots of wangle dangle things with it.  Oh goody.  I did explain to him that I don’t really watch TV, and that I also have an ‘I’ phone that I don’t really use to it’s full capability, but still, it sounded like maybe, if I read the instructions, I could do this!  I could enter the modern age.

After the deal was done I decided a bracket was what I needed.  No clutter or table to dust, I wanted it on the wall, preferably behind a secret sliding panel, a la James Bond, but failing that, definitely mounted!  I bought the mount.  Then began my endless visits to Lowes.
I walked up and down each aisle, squinting at the labels, looking high, crouching low, scouring for dry wall anchors like some crime scene investigator in glorious, impractical Technicolor.  I spent twenty fruitless minutes combing the area and regretting the sequin mini skirt that made bending over relatively precarious.  A bearded chap—I see Home Improvement Junkies all have beards—approached me and asked if he could help me.  Of course, the little purple pack was right under my nose. 

During his weeks here, Papa Smurf had equipped me with a drill and a spirit level.  Of course I told him I would never use them and ungraciously asked him why ever he would bother getting me those useless items—though the level did, I notice, have a nifty ruler on it.  Yet, he was right!  Now was the time, the time for TOOLS!  I tip-toed down to the basement and retrieved the new drill, the level and the plugs and laid them next to the TV.  I felt very accomplished; a bit like a chef, with all the ingredients chopped and minced neatly in little white bowls all ready to start creating!

But, GAH!  There was one ingredient missing.  A vital one.  I couldn't just nail it to the wall.  I needed... a Stud Finder.  I put a message out, certain that my handiest dandiest friend would respond.  He didn't.  Instead a number of kind offers to lend me their Stud Finder.  

Side note: I have never been very good at learning the right song lyrics.  I have always preferred to make up my own--it masked errors through originality.  I'm telling you this, because just hearing the words Stud Finder, regressed me to 1980's Grease 2 and I was a Michelle Pfeifffffffffer’s singing: “I need a Stuuuuuuuuuud Finder!  A Stuuuuuuuuud Finder!”  If you are a Chap Reader, that will mean nothing to you, so here's the video.  (No need to thank me.)  If you are a lady reader, I hope you find this as irresistible to sing along with as I do.  I digress.  But one last thing, don't you love how she is supposed to be 17 years old?  Yeah.  17 plus 7 years. 

Despite these studly offers, the logistics proved more complicated.  And so I thought, Fuck it!  I'll buy my own and do it myself.  You never know when a stud finder might come in handy.

So I returned, breathed deep and with the help of the bearded people, found the Finder of the Studs.  What a great little tool!  If only I could take it out in public and hold it up to every likely lad.  It could save much wasted time.  I found my studs, lying inert under the surface, like a diamond, or gold, or a decaying corpse.  

I imagine I looked a bit like this.
 (And that's shadow in my armpit.  I am British, not German.)
Now, you know this is not my thing.  I write, I teach people about their skin, I do not roll up my sleeves and transform into Tim Allen.  I am lanky, gawky and ungainly.  I make drunks look elegant even when I’m sober.  So picture me now, trying to hold up this large TV above my head—like Atlas—with a pencil in my mouth and the spirit level clenched under my arm, trying to get an idea of where the TV should go.  How do men do this?  Don’t they have the same two hands I have?  How do they hold all these things?  Does a penis naturally endow a chap with an extra hand?  Does it have elephant trunk like skills?  

I juggled the awkward screen in my hands, propping it up with my head, the lightweight television becoming lead-weight with every passing minute.  What didn’t help was the telephone which persisted on ringing, and the slippery hardwood that I had mistakenly spray polished when dusting the dining room table.  I juggled and slipped, dropped the spirit level on my toe, and in the end, slid to the floor, holding the prized screen up like some chalice I must save from the swamp of defeat.

I felt pretty demoralized.  I am sure Papa Smurf could have done it on his own.  Yet, I had failed.  I just couldn’t do it alone.  Sorry womankind.  So, I lit the bat signal, shone it over Scranton, and the cavalry arrived, in the form of my dearest friend's boyfriend: big capable hands, strength and oodles of patience.  The screen that I had sweated under, juggled, death-gripped, he held in his hands like it were cardboard.  He explained the mechanism of the mount and tossed the TV up on the wall with the effort I take to place a fridge magnet.  I was about as useful to him as a scuba diving tank to a fish.

I like to think I am pretty capable.  I like to think I am not a damsel in distress, but a dame with power tools and a dress; yet, sometimes there are tasks one woman cannot do alone; she needs a broader arm span and bigger hands.  Now I just need Mankind to need me for a task that requires smaller hands, a loud voice and bad ass limbo skillz.  No, I can't think of anything other than cat burglary either.  Don't ask me to do that, but  if you need these able digits to twiddle the hard-to-reach wires in the light fixture, I'm your gal!  Or snake to reach the pipes at the back of the dishwasher, I can do it!  Or sit back and watch her new smart TV, ah yeah, I'm on it!

Thank you, Batman.  


  1. I don't think that's a shadow. Funny Ellie.


  2. Brilliant, as always...once again, you never fail to make me smile!