No thanks, just looking

Ninety-nine percent of the time, that’s the answer I give — and hear others give — when a salesperson approaches and says, “Can I help you?”

I know it’s part of their job to ask, but I find the whole interaction so painful I go out of my way to avoid being approached. Even in stores that have switched to simply greeting customers — “Hi, how are you today?” — I find myself almost blurting out a curt, “Thanks, I’m just looking (i.e., Leave me alone!)” out of habit.

I think one of the reasons is that I (like most women) consider myself a professional shopper. With more than 30 years of shopping under my belt, I certainly don’t need help browsing through clothing racks or strolling through the furniture store or picking out a kitchen gadget.

And really, I doubt you are prepared to point me toward the perfect size 4 jeans (even though I wear a size 6 or 8), on sale, that don’t make my butt look big and aren’t 5 inches too long.

That said, I do like seeing the (usually older) greeter at Walmart and saying “hi.” (Maybe because I increasingly think that could be me someday.) But I’ve been taken aback by the new designated greeter who’s appeared at Lowe’s over the last few months.

By my calculation, I’ve been at Lowe’s or Home Depot an average of once a week for the last 10 years. Seriously — over 500 visits. The rare week I don’t visit is more than made up by the weeks I’m there multiple times. It’s been a real shock to my system to go charging in the store, fully “on task,” only to be met by a cheerful, blue-vested soul asking, “Hi, what can I help you find today?”

Huh? What? Don’t bother me, I’m on a mission. (And I probably know where most things are in this store as well as you.)

It’s a silly thing, but one I’ve noticed. Standing in line yesterday at the Returns desk, I had a bird’s-eye view of the greeter du jour. Nearly everyone she greeted had the same reaction I have — taken aback, not knowing what to say, rushing by with a wave of the hand and “I know where I’m going” reply.

Even funnier are the times when you escape being greeted upon entry, and then walk past the greeter 20 minutes later and he/she asks, “Hi, how can I help you today?” I’m often tempted to say, “Uh, could you open up another checkout line since I’m ready to buy this cart full of stuff?”

I know Lowe’s is trying to be friendly and help customers who really do feel overwhelmed in their big stores. I get that. Maybe it’s just that after 500 or so visits, I think they should know me already. That some special “Lowe’s Pro” sign should light up when I enter and the greeter should just smile at me with a knowing wink… Now that’s something that would make me feel special. (After all, I can rattle off the last 4 digits of my Lowe’s credit card to the cashier as easily as I punch in my debit card PIN.)

In the meantime, I’ll be the one you see feigning blindness and scurrying away from any and all “associates” who are desperately trying to help me.

I love to go shopping. I love to freak out salespeople.
They ask me if they can help me, and I say, “Have you got anything I’d like?”
Then they ask me what size I need, and I say, “Extra medium.”
~ Steven Wright



As in looty!

Jackpot at Lowe’s yesterday. Several racks of “distressed” plants on clearance. Clearance as in $0.15 for a 6-pack of annuals (do the math, $0.90 a flat), along with other assorted markdowns.

You should have seen the excited gardeners loading their carts, exclaiming, “There’s nothing wrong with these!? Are they really this price? Why?”

Seems a new shipment was due in today, and room had to be made. Apparently the markdowns started Monday night, so if you happened to be there then, you were really in hog heaven. Had I been 10 minutes sooner, I could have snagged more hanging baskets (one woman just ahead of me had 6 or 7 hanging off her cart).

But no complaints, for about $11.40 (and a half-hour “clearance penalty” waiting in line for manager approval), I came away with:

  • 6 flats and a couple 6-packs (marigolds, lobelia, petunias, snapdragons, alysum. I gave a mixed flat to my neighbor.)
  • 6 small “premium” annuals — great for hanging baskets
  • 5 candytuft (their small perennials have been marked down to $2 for a while, I’ve bought at least a dozen so far)
  • 1 hanging basket of impatiens
  • 1 gerbera daisy

Now, some of these annuals were not in great shape because of the cold weather (and it seems once the store puts something on clearance, they stop watering it, which just breaks your heart, as many people commented). But if at least half of them live, I’m still way ahead. I don’t usually plant many annuals, so it would be nice to enjoy the color this summer.

I also bought (at regular price) a couple shrubs to replace dead soldiers I had returned and gotten a refund for a couple weeks ago

A lot went in the  ground or pots yesterday, and admittedly looks a bit sad. I also planted the Topsy Turvy tomato — a “4th of July” my neighbor gave me that she started from seed. Can’t wait to see how that does since I never have any luck with tomatoes.


I still have a flat of lobelia to plant and the hanging baskets to do, but I ran out of potting soil. Bummer that the next week looks to be cold and rainy again. Everything needs some heat and sun!

Remind me I said that come August.

One of the most delightful things about
a garden is the anticipation it provides.
~ W.E. Johns

DIYers Take a Holiday

“hol·i·day 2 :  a day on which one is exempt from work.”

Doesn’t that sound nice?

Our holidays usually go something like this.

Step 1: Buy big heavy materials — this time, 9 big heavy boards to reframe half the front porch (eventually) and 7 big heavy landscape timbers to finish our leveling project along the driveway. 

I get crabby pretty fast in the lumber section of HD and Lowe’s. I aso have to cross my arms really tight to keep from exploding from the sheer hell of lingering endlessly in the “fasteners” and electrical aisles.

I can’t begin to count the minutes of my life lost to (someone else’s) deliberation over nails, screws, bolts, joist hangers, receptacles, junction boxes, and the like over the past 15 years. 

Sorry, gents, but no female indecision over slides or straps? slacks or capris? Dove or Olay? can hold a candle to the tedium of deciding between 1/4″ screws or 5/16″ screws. Or of examining every blessed 10-foot board in a stack of 50 five feet over your head to find 2 with no twists, no knots, nothing that would hamper a perfect job, ignoring that as soon as you get the wood home, it will twist either before it’s installed or after — it will never be perfect, NEVER BE PERFECT, and you will be forced to listen to how imperfect it is for a long, long time. And you will be asked over and over to just feel how that joist bounces (it bounces because you weigh 200 lbs and you’re jumping on it — STOP JUMPING ON IT) and just look how that stud twists (that stud will be covered up with drywall. NO ONE WILL SEE IT.), and can you believe how much a box of nails costs? (JUST BUY THE DAMN NAILS.)

Step 2: Complete several hours of back-breaking labor (who hates stripping sod? I do! I do!), another trip back to HD for 2 more landscape timbers, 2 trips to the landscape supply place for truckloads of topsoil, and 1 trip to the other landscape supply place for our “favorite” mulch (Smoky Mountain color).

Step 3: Savor the result: a neat and tidy border along the driveway, just aching to be planted with beautiful shrubs and perennials. (Couple more trips to Lowes & Wal-Mart. Few more hours of labor to plant them…eventually.)

Before  — ground slopes to the left           After — landscape timbers let
off the driveway — hard to mow,                us add dirt to level the slope.
hard to exit a car onto, not pretty.            Ready for planting!
Hard to tell, but the driveway drops off to the left. We added timbers so we could build up the soil to be (almost) level with the driveway.    

A few of our plant purchases
awaiting their new home.

Somewhere between Steps 2 and 3, Mike took his life in his hands to replace the porte cochere light (his idea — the original, 83-year-old one worked, so was just fine in my book). It was dark by the time he finished. I passed the time by discovering you can take some nifty shots with the digital camera at night. (You can’t always tell exactly what you’re aiming at, but…the results are pretty.)



All in all, three really productive days exempt from work. I can hardly wait for the 4th of July!

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: – “Oh, how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade.
                   ~ Rudyard Kipling, “The Glory of the Garden”