Following years of selling to and then working for independent garden centers and landscapers, I went to work for a mass merchandizer – the seasonal department of Home Depot, the other half of the retail horticulture industry. It was a great place to try out comedic patter, or just be the bland peon expected, depending on the customer. I developed some fun jokes to tell, fun for me anyway. So I’ll try sharing, the various customers’ dialogue are in italics. I swear, they just kept feeding me straight-lines:
- “I’m looking for an organic fertilizer for my orchid collection. It has to be organic.” “Hmm. For epiphytic orchids, which live in the trees and are fertilized by dust, detritus, monkeys and such. …uhm, can you perch on a credenza?”
- “What should I spray to kill all the bees in my yard?” “You could just cut off all the flowers? Or just grow conifers and grasses. They don’t attract pollinators.”
- “How do I kill everything in my yard?” “This bottle of pesticide should do the trick. Just make sure you drink all of it… just kidding about that, though suicide by pesticide is pretty common in parts of Asia. Always read and follow the directions on the label.”
- “Do you have the male-female couplings for a hose-end?” “Why yes, yes we do. In fact, the downtown store carries ‘male-male couplings’”.
- “Should I get the curved-shaft or straight-shaft string trimmer?” “Now that is quite a topic. A lot of guys have a curved-shaft trimmer, and that’s ok. Nothing to be ashamed about; they seem to get along fine. The straight shaft of course can tolerate more sustained and regular use, what with the gear box on the end. It also has more reach.”
- “Could you load 25 bags of topsoil out to my car for me?” “I’d be happy to! You know, this isn’t actually top soil – sand, silt and clay with 5-20% organic matter. This is 100% organic matter, usually manure and mill or green waste, composted and screened, sometimes with charcoal added to make it blacker. Kitchen and Bath has composting toilets available by special-order. You could save the bagging cost on these topsoil bags, which is, like, half the production cost.”
Anyway, I also wrote a poem for the store newsletter. Not exactly Ozymandias, though also poking at an edifice, or maybe just observational comedy. Here’s some:
The Ballad of Home Depot*
A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon,
The home-lives of these boys will need a few improvements soon.
With bleary eyes the married guys are bending to their tasks.
All hairy backs and low-slung slacks, they say, “The Mrs. ‘asks’”.
“Hey, I need some underlay. My paint has dried to glue.
Against my will my grass grows. Still! My God, what shall I do?”
“Need low price and need advice, even if it’s poor.
So off we go to Home Depot. They’ll stock this stuff, I’m sure.”
40,000 products and a grin shall greet our guest.
Our orange smocks (which no one mocks) with Kevlar make us best.
The freaks and trolls, clog up the strolls on up and down the aisles.
They stand and stare. Then we are there to help, with winning smiles.
Sometimes the smiles are not enough. There’s rage within our midst.
This patron is a dominant, note clenching jaw and fist.
Their shopping time is valuable, on this we all agree.
Though if they wait, all filled with hate, they think this stuff is free.
“Free to you. I mean this true. I’m sorry, we were wrong.
But when you face your parking space, you’ll find your car is gone”.
You know our Lot Associates** can break in with a wire.
They drive them off and part them out to our friends: Canadian Tire***….”
The poem went on and on, and while you’re thinking it, I did quit my day job. For a better one.
* With apologies to Robert W. Service
** Lot Associates = parking lot helpers
*** A big box chain specializing in automotive.