They Don’t Know that They Don’t Know

Another twelve-hour day. It’s nice to feel wanted.

At Home Depot tonight I was buying parts for the nail salon job, which I’m doing at night so that the business can keep operating in the day, and I spied a little old lady with a small piece of paper in her hand. She scanned all the shelves with an aimlessness that bespoke no acquaintance at all with the plumbing trade.

“Can I help you?”

“Oh, yes. Do you work here?”

“No, I’m a plumber.”

She looked at her little paper and told me what she was looking for: a slip nut for a 1-1/4″ j-bend. She said that she was trying to find the j-bends first, then she would look for the appropriate slip nut.

Dear reader, she would have been there for a good hour had she been allowed to persist in that method. I took her two aisles over and showed her the slip nuts. I also gave her my business card.

Sometimes the workers in such a store can be a big help. Sometimes they’re as lost as a goose in a snowstorm. The problem is that the poor customer can’t tell the difference. As I resumed picking my parts off the shelves, I overheard and enthusiastic and clueless customer rattling his desires off to a worker in orange.

“Now I needs me some solder.”

“Right here it is; silver solder.”

“Why is it silver?”

(Slight pause, then assertion of confidence) “You don’t have to wear a mask when you solder with it.”

Solder was made of lead in the old days. Environmentalism has driven the trade to use lead-free solder now in an attempt to make our drinking water a fraction of a tad safer. Contrary to this utterance from the oracle in orange, nobody ever wore a mask when he soldered with lead.

I turned to look at the unfortunate victim. He had three rolls of solder in his shopping basket. I, who run plumbing calls for a living, use about one roll every month or two.

I believe in the “Do It Yourself” philosophy, but you’d better have a plumber standing by when the project goes into the toilet (so to speak); because there’s a lot of false confidence for sale, and you just might leave the store with some if you don’t check your bag carefully.