Would you maybe like to get a beer sometime?
My list for my next trip to Menards currently reads “door plan.” The doors in question are exterior, facing west, off the yoga studio. In the winter when the wind whips up, in spite of the hulking structure of the Ethan Allen store across the parking lot, the curtains inside the doors billow. Snow blows under and around the door seams. They are so loose in the frames that before a slide bolt was added, I could pull one of them open from the outside, even with the deadbolt fastened.
I’ve requested new exterior doors from my landlord, but until that happens I’ll be shopping for insulation to stem the cold. Last year this quest took me to a whole different section of Menards, my do-it-yourselfer’s paradise. The store is so vast, I explore new areas every time I go. On one visit I asked the woman who was kindly walking me to the section where I found just the tool storage kit I was looking for how far she walked at work every day. Fifteen miles, she told me, without ever leaving the building.
The most complicated project I’ve undertaken thus far was repairing the basement sidewall where a river of water was flooding in every time it rained last spring. I found a how-to video on Youtube, bought the kit of epoxy and ports and various other goos at Menards, and mended the wall. It wasn’t difficult, exactly, but it was labor intensive. And, like any other home-project, it’s 90 percent complete. I have yet to sand the repair and paint it to match the wall.
Every trip to Menards necessitates another trip to Menards. I’ve bought and returned the wrong light bulb (it takes a PhD and a retirement-fund withdrawal these days to purchase light), poorly made keys, a too-big drill bit, and spare parts I picked up just in case. I have also, inevitably, needed to return for a different paintbrush, an additional drop cloth, a roller cover, a new mop head. I am a more-than frequent shopper for storage systems and plant pots. All of these, alongside picture hooks, chocolate truffles, a new DVD, holiday décor, and the best salted peanuts I’ve ever found have ended up in my cart at Menards.
It was nevertheless news to me on my most recent trip that Menards is also a source of potential boyfriends. I’m not entirely sure which aisle they’re stored in—the one who presented himself came to find me where I was considering hanging plant baskets.
I had walked the length of the store, thinking about those fifteen miles, carrying a 45-gallon storage tote in each hand. On the way I said hello to the man in question—he was heading toward the checkout and his blue eyes registered surprise when I greeted him. (I tend to greet everyone, a habit adopted early and held onto, even in New York City.) But then it was only a few minutes later: He rounded the aisle where I was absorbed in the planters pushing a cart. It held two pumpkins and several tubes of caulk. “You’re buying hanging baskets in the fall?”
“They’re on sale.”
He had a soft voice to go with those bright blue eyes, short hair and stubble, or maybe it was close-cropped and intentional, I couldn’t be sure. He stood watching me while I looked at the baskets and the hanging pots. I nattered: “Someone gave me a gift of some spider plants—I own a yoga studio—and, well, I need a different way of housing them.”
“You mean like group classes, that kind of thing?”
“Yep.” I considered him a little more carefully. Fit. Why didn’t I hand him a card?
“The pumpkins,” he indicated his cart, “are a good price too. Out by me they’re charging four or five dollars apiece.”
“I heard it was supposed to be a bad year for pumpkins.”
“There seem to be plenty—the fields are orange.” A pause, and then his next question: “Do you have a lot of fall cleanup to do?”
“Heaps.” I told him, “at least, I suppose I must. I don’t really know what I’m doing. Mostly I think I’ll mow one more time and hope the leaves all blow over to the neighbors’.”
“Live near here?”
I waved my hand vaguely southwest of where we were standing, “In Clive. You?”
“West of Adel.” Wistful.
The day’s to-do list had me heading from Menards downtown to the Hoyt Sherman Place ticket office for Nutcracker tickets, over to my favorite liquor store for spiced pear vodka, and back to an address I’d never been to just north of Drake University where a friend was giving me a file cabinet for the yoga studio in just under an hour. It was time to make off with my hanging baskets. He had more questions:
“What do you like to do for fun?”
I smiled. “I like to think everything I do is fun.” I didn’t add my usual whine—that I just do too much of everything that I do. Instead I held out my hand, “I’m Robin.”
“Brad,” he shook mine in his.
“Nice talking to you,” I smiled, picked up my impossible load that now included three hanging baskets, three pots and the two boxes, and started walking away. That’s when he asked:
“Would you maybe like to get a beer sometime?”
My next breath was like the moment in The Once and Future King right before Arthur tries to pull the sword from the stone. Each of the animals he’s learned from offers wisdom as he approaches his task. I could hear my community in my head: my mother suggesting if I brought him home he might fix things; my children protesting that he wasn’t wearing a pin-striped suit (one of their requirements for any potential suitor); my friends asking, you met this one where?? Then there was the carefree me inclined to say “sure” to any adventure. But it was in a deep still place where I found my reply. “No,” I gave a genuine smile and looked straight at him, “But thank you.”
I’ve driven away from Menards with an eight-foot ladder sticking out of the back of my convertible, the legs wedged behind the front seats. I’ve driven away with the back seat loaded and parts rattling around on the floor. I’ve driven away with items I’ve found that I didn’t need later. I’ve never driven away kicking myself. I did just a little that day.
One of the things I adore about Menards are the wise little sayings, like fortune cookies, in tiny print at the bottom of each page of their advertising circulars. They are required reading on Sundays at our house. And they keep me going back … Today is Thirteen’s half birthday, a full moon, and Hurricane Sandy is pounding my beloved East coast. Here’s a full-moon wish for gentle adventures—thanks, as ever, for witnessing one of mine, Rxo