We are homeowners. If you aren’t a homeowner, I will let your mind at ease. You don’t need to be a homeowner. If you are currently living in a swanky rental where someone else takes out your trash, replaces broken things, and worries about insurance and other random things, you are doing a-okay. I never really understood the economic incentive of homeownership– and truthfully I’m not sure I do now– but sometimes you crunch some numbers and you’re feeling all American-dreamy and POOF! you end up with a home that’s all your own.
Don’t mistake my honesty for dissatisfaction; I’m having a gangbusters time owning a home. (It’s a condo. I don’t want to lie to you.) But I know that there is not always a reason to own. In all fairness, we bought a new conversion condo that was almost as turnkey as they come. There are some #firstworldproblems, like I don’t like the blond wood of the bannister and the cherrywood of the cabinets aren’t what I would have picked out myself, but whatever. Cry a fucking river, Caroline.
But when you’ve lived in apartment rentals– especially in the city– for almost 15 years, there are things about homeownership that can be a real beast. Never mind taking out the trash myself and sorting my own recycling, I’m getting pretty good at that, and I’m even ramping up to changing my own lightbulbs and remembering to lock my own front door, but as the summer approaches, things begin to emerge. Homeowner things. Like tiny toothed monsters hiding in the shadows.
We did not want a yard. In some ways, it made us the perfect buyers. Yard? No thank you. I hear yard and I am tormented by the years I spent slaving as my mother’s stand in Indonesian factory worker, her personal weeder and earth whisperer. Saturday mornings spent hunched uncomfortably in a dirt bed riddled with dog shit, praying to every known deity that I wouldn’t find an earthworm or beetle of some kind. Because then I would die. And while I understand the desire for a green space to… do whatever you do on it… I’d rather a nice slab with a patio table and some twinkle lights. As for the child, he’s fine. He has a park, a room of toys, colors, tables, and whole city. He’ll live without a yard.
But we didn’t get away totally scot free. There’s a patch of earth. It’s about 3×2 feet on the side of the driveway. My initial thought was that we should buy some nice shiny rocks and fill it up. I was ignored. There was real enthusiasm for planting, which I was not UNenthusiastic about, but I was a little indifferent. When the snow melted, it revealed what I thought was a bunch of dead shit. Turns out, they were something called “annuals” and they weren’t actually dead, just holding out. If I ever look like that while I’m “holding out,” just take me out.
We had a Very Official meeting of our condo association. (Me, Corey, the downstairs neighbor, some cheese, two bottles of rose, and Author running up and down the hall.) We decided to get ready for summer by hiring some students to clean and paint the patio furniture and “prep the bed” for some planting. We made a list of items we’d need to pick up:
• Rustoleum Primer
• Rustoleum Black Enamel Paint
• Phosphoric Acid Prep and Etch
• Wire Brushes
• Hose mount
• Hose Nozzle
• Compost Soil
I think that was everything, all of which would be available at Home Depot. I volunteered to go get the stuff during the week so that the students could hit the ground running on Saturday.
What should have been a quick trip to the hardware store quickly spiraled into a hot spot of self actualization and doubt. Do you have any idea how many different kinds of hoses there are? How many lengths, styles, colors, and types? Do you want a rubber hose or a vinyl hose? Do you want it to coil or spiral? Green or black? Expandable standard? Will you be using it to trickle beds or spray flowers? I DONT HAVE ANY IDEA. At this point I hadn’t even made it to the Home Depot. I was at the Target. I asked a couple who was passing by if they had any knowledge of hoses, to which the man, who had thick tattoos all around his neck and upper chest, responded, “They spray water. What’s there to know?” I explained that I was buying my first hose and he looked at me incredulously. I explained that he might be surprised how little use one has for a garden hose in downtown Boston and he looked at me like I’d no sense at all. He pointed at a plain green hose about 30 feet long. “Just get that one.” He started to walk off, but I knew I needed him to direct me to the correct nozzle. “Are the nozzles universal? Like can I use any one with any hose?” This time his wife/girlfriend responded. “What are you doing with the hose.” I wasn’t trying to be an asshole, but it just came out. “Getting water out of it.” She explained that there were different settings for different kinds of watering and I should be sure I was getting the right settings. After a somewhat exhausting back and forth, I realized that the most expensive nozzle in all the land was only $9. “Oh. Well this is dumb. I’ll just buy a few.”
What she heard was, “I’m an elitist hose whore who thinks money grows on trees and will simply surround myself with solid gold nozzles and scoff at other, nozzleless persons.”
I made it home with a hose and a nozzle. So about a 10th of my list. I wasn’t deterred. The problem was Target. Not me.
The rest of the items I knew wouldn’t give me a problem. Couple of cans of spray paint, bag of dirt, rake. I ran to the Home Depot to pick up the items after dinner.
Now look. I am not suggesting that the employees of the Home Depot are not helpful, as in, they desire to help you. But I can read labels just like the next guy. What I actually need is some expertise. Some knowledge that goes beyond what the hapless copywriter was able to get on the label. (Believe me, as a copywriter I know the drill.) When I suddenly realize that compost and soil are not interchangeable, and that there’s been a lot of fucking around with dirt since I last bought a bag of it, I need someone with some real information. There was no one. I wasn’t about to go home without dirt and try to explain that with all my brains I was actually dumber than dirt, so I stood in the nursery section for a solid 45 minutes reading bags. I learned nothing. I would have to just pick.
When I finally made my way to the gardening utensils section, most of my smugness had faded. I was glad to be able to grab the last few things and go on my way, but of course that didn’t happen. Because something happened to hoes since 1997 and it turns out I can’t pick one out of a line up. Hoes have changed. Hoes are in a whole new league.
The part that still makes me laugh is how I allowed myself to become convinced that I was being punked. Even though the display said “gardening hoe” and I was holding a thing with a “gardening hoe” label, I refused to believe that it was actually a hoe. Why did it look like that? And because I don’t actually know what a hoe is used for, I couldn’t accurately decide whether this nouveau hoe would work for my needs. My phone battery was getting too low for an extensive research effort so I did what I do best, gave up.
Hoeless and pushing around a bag of dirt, I finally found the spray paint. (The expert at Home Depot told me it was “halfway down aisle four.” What she meant to say was “it’s all the way down at the end of aisle four. Like the very end. Before you hit the bathtubs.”) I may have made an involuntary whimpering sound when I looked up to find 3790032 different kinds of RustOleum. I know that I said, “you’ve got to be shitting me” out loud. My hoe problems were the least of it. There was no way I was going to be able to figure out what kind of paint to get. And how much did I need? I deferred to the friendly Home Depot expert who read the label and then stated, “well, it says here you can get 50 sqft from one can so I guess you can get about 50 square feet.” I really didn’t feel like being bitchy because it occurred me that she really did think she’d just done an incredible job servicing me.
“Oh great. That’s awesome. I’ll get two.”
i.e. I don’t have the energy to point out to you how useless that information was to me. I’d try, but I’ve been beaten by hoe and a bag of dirt and have nothing left to give. I’m just going to get these two cans and if they aren’t enough, I’ll huff them in my car before coming back to talk to you about getting more.
Two wasn’t enough. I should have gotten four.
When I got home, full of tales of the hoe aisle and dirt differences, the hubs gave me one of his usual smug responses. Something along the lines of “you weren’t asked to pick out a cure for cancer.” His smugness was short-lived, though, as I had compensated for my inability to find anything for us to use by buying miniature versions of everything on the list for A. There’s nothing that makes the hubs’ crazier than my facilitating the boy being all up in his shit while he is trying to get something done.
“…. and this tiny shovel so he can help you clear the beds! Oh! And did you see this ridiculous mini push broom?! How cute is that?”
Next stop, the plant nursery!