I feel I must tell you a story. It is remotely related to sailing – as the whole purpose of the errand that developed into the story was a trip to the store to pick up boat supplies – you know, duct tape and super glue and other important things. But, more importantly, it is incredibly embarrassing and, therefore, exceptionally entertaining and, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is the whole point of this blog, no? To entertain you. So, without further adieu, I give you a story about a girl at Home Depot.
This story begins on an average Tuesday. As I’m sure most of you know, I am an attorney and I found myself on this particular Tuesday sitting happily in court in Bay Minnette on a debt collection matter, awaiting my turn to repo a boat from “some deadbeat” who had stopped paying on the note. Eighteen percent on an $18,000 loan for a used fishing boat? I probably would have stopped paying too. But, he had signed the papers, taken the money and bought the boat. He owed the debt, and I was all set to win. This guy, we shall call him Mr. Detter, was also pro se, meaning unrepresented by counsel, so I didn’t even expect him to show. As I’m sitting in the back of the courtroom with the rest of the good ‘ole boy attorneys telling them tall tales from sea and joking that I couldn’t wait to get back to my boat to make myself a hearty rum drink, the judge calls my case, and the man whom I thought to be just some other attorney sitting behind me stands and straightens his three-piece suit. But it’s not an attorney. It’s Mr. Detter. He’s been there all along, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
I fumbled, tried to recover, gave him an out-stretched hand and a “Glad you could make it,” to which Mr. Detter responded with a “So you’ve got a boat too.” Nice dig. I swallowed audibly and proceeded with kid gloves. “Your Honor, if it’s not too much trouble, we’d like to take Mr. Detter here’s boat away from him … ” I got the writ of seizure to repo Mr. Detter’s boat, but it was not my finest hour. A great story, in and of itself, but tuck that away for later.
After the hearing, I headed to Home Depot to pick up a few things for the boat before heading back to Pensacola. And, remember, I just came from court, which means I’m wearing a slick back suit, my hair is twisted up in a Queen Elizabeth French twist and I’m clacking around in five-inch heels.
Yes, five. I always wear five-inch heels to court. I like to look my opponents in the eye. I click through the store ignoring every eager, doe-eyed, orange apron-clad employee that tries to help me. “No thank you. I know exactly what I need.” I move swiftly through the store picking up the five things I need: (1) a hose extender so we can shower on the deck; (2) a PVC plumbing fitting to connect the hose extender; (3) an outdoor rug for the dock; (4) a shop vac for obvious reasons; and (5) a look at the outdoor cushions for more material to convert into fun boat accessories. I make these rounds and grab what I need quickly, waving off all assistance from the buzzing orange bees that continue to swarm me at every turn. I get up to the cash register, all ready to check out, load my junk and get home. It’s around 1:00 o’clock.
I pay and fold up my receipt and hoist the shop vac up on my hip with the rest of my bags hanging off me while I continue to refuse help from the orange drones. “No, thank you, I’ve got everything under control here people.” But, I most certainly did not. As I started to head out the door, heaped up like a pack mule, I start fumbling around my pockets and wallet and realize I don’t have my keys. I do not have my keys. You can imagine the exaggerated sigh of exasperation that hissed out of me as I set all of my crap down and started looking around the register, the floor around the cashier, through my bags, etc. I ask the cashier to check around her area several times for a little bunch of keys. The minimalist that I am, I keep my keys on one little ring that clips to my wallet. It looks like this:
And I was looking for those in a store that looks like this:
Like a needle in a haystack. So, I start re-tracing my steps, and I say “start” because I re-traced that path probably ten, twelve, thirteen times before it was all said and done. I head back to the dishwasher accessory department where I got the hose extender. No keys. The plumbing aisle where I got the PVC fitting. No keys. The rug department. No keys. The aisle with the shop vacs. No keys. And, lastly, the outdoor furniture cushions. No keys. Everywhere I went, there were no keys. I re-traced the path three more times and, remember, in my suit and heels, I look about as “in place” as a beauty pageant contestant at a tractor pull. The orange drones, while initially reluctant to help me as I was so welcoming and grateful for their help initially, begin to feel sorry for me and started to swarm in. I tell them I can’t find my keys and soon the entire floor staff knows I’m the blonde that is looking for her keys. It is announced over the loud speaker several times for all employees and customers to keep a lookout for “a woman’s keys.” I’m not sure why the “woman” qualifier was needed there. Perhaps women’s keys look different than men’s keys? If not, and it was simply to emphasize the fact that a man wouldn’t lose his keys at the Home Depot, then it still wouldn’t be needed, am I right? While the “woman’s keys” reference puzzled me, it was repeated over the loud speaker several times over the course of the afternoon. I felt like they were going to accost every new customer that came through the door with a “limited offer” for 20% off their entire purchase if only they would help find this “woman’s keys.”
And, as I continued my repetitive trek through the store, going to the same five places 89.47 times, each time an orange-clad clerk approaches me, the first thing they ask me is:
“Do you remember where you went?” I was asked that question probably twelve times, and by the tenth, I would start to respond with “No … my goodness, no. I have no idea. I’ve just been wondering around the store aimlessly looking in all of the places I did NOT go!” I’ll admit. I was out of patience, irritated utterly with myself and taking it out entirely on the award-winning Home Depot crew. I was making a real scene, turning over boxes, lifting rugs, looking everywhere. No keys. I go out to my car several times thinking maybe I left them in the ignition. No dice. I head back in the store to continue roaming around like an idiot and guffawed with unnecessary exaggeration when the guy in the little booth who makes key copies asked me if there was anything he could help me with. As if he didn’t know me. The blonde, haughty woman who had lost her keys. I decided to humor him out of spite. “Sure, I seem to have lost my keys. Do you think you could help me with that?” To which he responded, completely un-phased, “Of course, ma’am. I can make you a copy. Do you have the original?” I let my face drop visibly before him and just walked away. He wasn’t worth the breath I would waste mocking him. And, don’t even get me started on the cashier who appeared to have the memory of a goldfish. Every time I came back to her, she would look puzzled at the fact that I wasn’t holding merchandise for her to ring up and say “Can I help you?”
Yes, my keys, the keys, a woman’s KEYS! Have you yet found a set of keys or had someone turn in some keys? Do you recall, in any manner, that I am the WOMAN WHO LOST HER KEYS!?!’”
Two hours had now passed with me traipsing through the store, my slick “up” hairdo now shaking out in clumps and my suit jacket reeking of sweat. I decide to get scrappy. I am going to leave here in my car dammnit. I ask the guy in the hardware department if I can borrow a crowbar just for a minute. “I want to break into my car to make sure my keys didn’t fall onto the floorboard as I was stepping out.” Oh, and it may help you to know that I drive an old 2001 Volvo that you have to actually stick the key in the door to UN-lock it and push the button as you’re getting out to lock it.
Meaning, unlike today’s “smart” cars, my car is easily dumb enough to allow me to lock the keys in. The hardware guy looks at me dead pan, not responding initially, and finally telling me he can’t allow me to “borrow” a tool for that purpose. “Okay, fine, I’ll buy it for that purpose. Which of these fine instruments would best serve me to break into my own car, sir?” Realizing I was going to do it regardless, he finally surrenders and hands me an old beat-up crow-bar from behind his counter.
I head out to my car and start pushing and wedging the crowbar between the door and the frame and eventually make a crack that I can slip perhaps a credit card into. I’m struggling and grunting and sweating, and getting nowhere. I throw off my suit jacket in a huff and push a blond clump of hair from my fair when I hear a voice from behind me. “Ms. Dike?” Oh Jesus, what imminently important person could this be witnessing me in the middle of this debacle? I can feel his eyes burning into my back. Whoever it is seems to be gaining a large amount of pleasure from my current state of affairs. I turn around to find the one and only Mr. Detter. Mr. Detter. Really? Yes, really. He is smiling from ear to ear. While I may have been the victor that morning, he was clearly the superior now. But, to his credit, after a few light and well-deserved jabs – “Look who’s in trouble now?” “Resorted to repo’ing them yourself now, huh?.” – Mr. Detter went dutifully to his truck and pulled out a little gismo that looked like a car antennae with a hook on the end. He said he’d used it several times to crack open his wife’s car when she’d locked the keys in. He slipped it through the crack I had wedged and tried mightily to pull the lock up. Mr. Detter and I are out there sweating and heaving (me, in my dress and heels mind you – Mr. Detter apparently had the wherewithal to change into work clothes before heading to the Home Depot) and pulling on my Volvo door when another voice beckons from behind us. “Excuse me ma’am? Sir? Can I ask you what you’re doing?” I close my eyes. Lord, what fresh new hell is this?
It’s the cops, that’s who it is. Yes. A Daphne P.D. Captain Something-or-Other trying to stop two master-mind criminals, Mr. Detter and I, from stealing some good, up-standing citizen’s Volvo. And, you might be thinking, “Okay, she has to be making every bit of this up. Like the cops would really just show up at that moment.” They did, and let me prove it to you – so you will never again doubt the integrity of my stories and the depths to which I will go to entertain you with my misfortunes. The cops came because the Home Depot in Daphne is located right next to the Daphne Police Department. I kid you not:
The whole force must have been sitting in their office, stale coffee and jelly donuts in hand, watching me come out to my car, throw my suit jacket off in protest, and begin breaking into my car with a Home Depot crowbar and, finally, when I solicited the everyday do-gooder, Mr. Detter, to assist me with my dirty deeds, that was it. They had to come investigate. And I’m sure things didn’t sit well initially with Captain Something-or-Other, when I struggled to explain why I was breaking into the car and who Mr. Detter was and why he was helping me. I believe I introduced him initially as “my colleague” which, I agree, sounds sinister. But, thankfully, I think the shear magnitude of my utter mortification began to sink in and the Captain believed I was, in fact, simply trying to break into my own car to find my own keys. Amused by my situation, he decided to pitch in. He broke out his official car breaker-into device and popped my door right open. He had me sign a waiver acknowledging it was, in fact, my own car we had broken into and that I was, thereby, releasing the Department of any liability in connection with his act. Not knowing my occupation and me looking nothing like a put-together lawyer at the time, Mr. Detter got a hearty laugh out of the cop’s explanation to me that “liability” was just a fancy “lawyer word” for fault. “Sign here.”
But, alas, having broken into the car, found no keys and signed my rights away to the Daphne PD, I headed back into the store to once again re-trace my steps through the various departments. The cashier gave me that “Can I help you?” look again as I walked in, and I just held up a hand to her and walked by. With the best of intentions, Mr. Detter asked me, “Do you remember where you went?” to which I responded, “Yes. Electrical. I spent the entire time in electrical. Will you please go check there?” just to shake free of him. And, just as I was about to give up, call Triple AAA or some of my seriously sinister colleagues to hotwire the thing, a dopey orange-clad employee came up to me and asked if I was the “woman looking for her keys.” I stood there dumbfounded for a minute, my hair sweaty and stringy on my neck, my dress smeared with grease and dirt from the crowbar and door jam and, still, the heels (I mean, I had no other shoes), and nodded fervently. “Here you go. Some customer found them in a box of fittings in the plumbing aisle.”
And, there in his meaty paw, were my keys. My keys! Thank the ever-loving stars in heaven! I squealed and gripped him tight in a bear hug that pulled him right off the floor. While I wanted to look in the plumbing aisle where he had found them and figure out how in the hell I had dropped them there, I honestly did not care. I had my keys! My thoughts went immediately to getting the heck out of there. By then, I was nauseous at the sight of the Home Depot and anyone wearing a color remotely resembling orange. I hoisted all of my crap at the register on my hip and jogged out to my car, hoping Mr. Detter wouldn’t see or hear me. Our exchange had already been awkward enough and I didn’t want to endure an equally uncomfortable farewell. I just wanted him off my back. Then, it hit me. My back. I reached back and, sure enough, my dress was unzipped all the way down to my waist. I am not known for owning impeccably-tailored clothes. Rather, I am the type that will squeeze into a dress two sizes two small and strap up the part that won’t zip with some string or ribbon or Velcro flap I’ve created. Or, in this case, I will throw a suit jacket over it because, surely, I won’t have any reason to take my jacket off, will I? Of course not. The entire time I had been man-handling my car, interacting with the doe-eyed Mr. Detter and talking with the cop, my dress had been unzipped all the way down my back with my criss-cross bra blaring out for all the world to see. Something along these lines:
I am just that classy.
But, the best part of this story was, when I came to Home Depot, I was irritated by my embarrassing display in court that morning, annoyed that I had to stop by Home Depot in my heels and work outfit and dreading the drive back to Pensacola after a long morning in court. Now, I was the happiest woman alive. I had my keys! I could crank my car! And, I could drive it and leave the effin’ Home Depot forever. Literally, I have yet to return to the Daphne Home Depot and I don’t think I ever will – the thought sickens me.
I was all smiles and sunshine as I pulled out of the parking lot, three hours after I had pulled in, leaving Mr. Detter behind to dutifully overturn boxes of electrical cords and fittings in search of a “woman’s keys.” I sang every song that came on the radio all the way home. Even sappy eighties love ballads got a peppy treatment – nothing could dampen my mood. It took a sweaty, mortifying afternoon at the Home Depot with Mr. Detter and the Daphne P.D. to teach me if you think your day is going badly, know that it can always get worse.