In the Metro Commentary section of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s online branch, columist Carl Golden writes:
I am terrified of Home Depot. And Lowe’s. And places like them.
Oh, sure, I watch all the TV commercials that show helpful store personnel in orange aprons skillfully demonstrating the latest in power tools to smiling customers.
Everybody looks delighted.
Me? I break out in a cold sweat every time I walk into one of these places and take in miles of aisles offering merchandise to build, remodel, renovate or demolish just about anything ever constructed.
I have this recurring nightmare in which I’m stranded in the middle of the store, unable to find an exit.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m about to make fun of Carl for his lack of DIY know-how. I’m not. After reading the rest of his column, this bit stuck in my mind:
While I stand on the cold concrete floor looking like an American tourist in downtown Moscow, I’m surrounded by a bunch of guys in tan work boots, ripped blue jeans, and dirty T-shirts with cartoon logos on them. They all seem to have tattoos on their biceps, sawdust in their hair, and paint smears on their forearms.
But they all seem to know precisely what they’re doing and why. They all seem to know exactly which gadget to pluck out of a bin filled with thousands of similar devices, or exactly how many boards they will need for whatever job they are doing, or just how many gallons of paint they will need so there is none left over.
I’m not laughing at Carl. I feel sorry for him. His problem isn’t his lack of knowledge; it’s his quick — and thoroughly wrong — stereotype of those of us who use tools and do for ourselves. I have no tattoos, own very few pairs of jeans with holes in them (they suck for welding — don’t ask), and don’t wear T-shirts by themselves while working because they make me look like Onslow from Keeping Up Appearances. Sure, I know guys (and women!) who fit his description wholly or in parts, but the point is this: DIYer are marked by only one trait — the fact that they do it themselves.
If Carl could just look part the stereotype and realize that he doesn’t need tan-colored work boots to solve DIY problems, he’d soon realize that all he needs is a strong desire to do so and the will to figure it out.
I’d be willing to bet a quarter — even after losing dozens to Sean lately — that the guy he saw plucking a gadget from the bin probably threw it back and looked at 10 more before he found the right one. And, the guy who knew exactly how many boards he needed likely spent a good hour drawing the job out on paper to figure it out (by whatever method works for him) — and likely had some left over as he accounted for the screwups that are part of learning the job.
We rarely just know how to do the job — we figure it out as we go, reading books or asking friends, collegues, or even the people at the store for help.
Speaking of the people at the store… five or six years ago Home Depot employed a lot of knowledgeable staff that could really help, even with difficult electrical and plumbing tasks. While there are exceptions, I certainly feel that the level of service has dropped significantly at Home Depot since. We hear that this has something to do with a corporate restructuring a few years ago, but I know nothing of the details.
One thing I do agree with Carl about: “The power-tool section is particularly bewildering. The selection is so vast that I can’t understand how anyone could possibly choose the proper one.” Well, Carl, we’re here to help. If you get a chance, check out our guide to selecting your next cordless drill. And, in late January check out our Ultimate Drill Test where we’re putting together a massive test of dozens of the market’s most common drills.
A Fear of Mr. Fix-It [Philly.com]