|Where reluctant men spend their |
midlife Sunday mornings
When I was young, single and running free from all responsibilities, Sunday mornings meant three things: late awakenings, extended breakfasts, and uninterrupted, hours-long reading of newsprint to a soothing soundtrack of Music for Hangovers. There was little movement involved, and certainly no heavy lifting.
Accumulating years brought with them all the trappings of what is comically termed a ‘settled’ lifestyle: three females, all of them fucking nuts in their own sweet ways, and - most burdensome of all - a garden. This latter symbol of having made it all the way out of town pre-supposes hours of musing and relaxation in an idyllic, naturally perfumed sub-utopia. In reality it’s a combination of rampant horny weeds, stunted and tasteless vegetables, vicious and feral insects, and mud caused by daily storms and perpetual drainage problems. To solve the latter problem, Mrs. Pop has started laying down flagstones so we can step through the mire.
|Aisle be buggered - paving away for no returns|
This has meant being recruited for trips to Home Depot on Sunday morning – the sort of intra-marital chore you can only avoid by feigning a mid-life crisis, inventing a 19-year-old mistress, and driving off for good in the open-topped twatmobile you bought by cashing in your only life insurance policy. I escaped Home Depot for several years by maintaining that I was boycotting the company for contributing to George W Bush’s 2004 election campaign, but my marriage has finally outlived this excuse.
One recent trip was endured, and several heavy flagstones were hauled on to a trolley, heaved into the back of the car, then removed at the other end ready to pave the soggy slope down the side of our house. But it turned out we didn’t buy enough, so this past weekend we went back for more. Back to Home Depot, filled with hundreds of other people who don’t want to be there, resenting each other’s existence, facing off with sullen expressions behind trolleys in aisles where only one can pass. How to get out and away as quickly as possible is the only thought inside the head of every single customer. At least it is for the remotely sane ones.
We loaded twelve very heavy flagstones. Sweating and feeling ready for a major back-related incident, we left them unattended for five minutes to go and pick up some paint we’d ordered earlier. When we came back, the trolley and the flagstones were gone. We looked around, but there was no sign. We checked the pile of flagstones on the shelf, but no zealous, muscle-packed employee had swiftly re-stacked them. After stalking through the store with no success, we wondered if we’d died and gone to a fate worse than hell, trapped for eternity in a DIY netherworld on a futile circular quest for the Twelve Lost Flagstones of Aspen Hill.
I ran to the cash tills. A little old guy had just pushed ‘our’ flagstones through the checkout and was heading towards the car park. I ran up beside him and asked him why he’d nicked our trolley. Forget those wars and protestors in Syria, Egypt, Brazil and Turkey, right at this second I was feeling the intense hurt of a most immediate abuse of my human rights. You could say that my perspective had been narrowed by the thought of having to haul another dozen flagstones off the shelf.
The little old man waved a receipt at me as he did his best to beetle off with his load. “All paid for,” he said, failing to look me in the eye.
“You just swiped our trolley and ran off with our flagstones!” I observed accurately, if somewhat pathetically.
“All paid for,” he repeated, waving the receipt again.
In some ways, I’ve never really assimilated to the US lifestyle. In other ways, though, I definitely have. “You fucking asshole,” I told him. “Just go and fuck right off.”
If someone had been quick enough with a cell phone, there could now be a video of me on YouTube harassing an elderly man half my size, pushing a heavy load as I swear at him. It’s not my proudest moment, but he had to be told. I backed off and went to give the latest flagstone news to Mrs. Pop.