My hardware store is in
And for that reason,
The employees of my
In my store, mostly the men work the floor, and mostly the women work the registers. That’s no surprise. You’ll find that anywhere. In fact, I once had a friend who was a DIY goddess. Not having a garage, she converted a large closet in her condo into a workshop complete with a full-size table saw. She had every power tool known to man. She routed her own moulding. She could install ceramic tile in her sleep. And when she applied for a job at Home Depot, where did they put her? That’s right, behind a cash register. Meanwhile, the teenage boy working in the tool corral couldn’t identify a drill press in a lineup with a circular saw and a palm sander.
Unlike my friend, the register ladies at my hardware store seem content with their lot. And when they’re not busy, they keep up a steady stream of gossip about who always takes two extra minutes on their cigarette break, who didn’t finish stocking the items from Tuesday’s delivery, and who always pretends to be helping customers in order to avoid breaking down the pallets.
Which reminds me of another friend of mine, who worked one summer for a large Midwestern chain of hardware stores. Toward the end of the summer, he received his acceptance into
As my friend expected, the announcement was met with much eye-rolling and groaning from his coworkers. One of them protested loudly “He’s going to Harvard? He don’t even know how to work the box baler!”
As I look around my own hardware store, especially at those denizens who count “toothpick” as an acceptable uniform accessory, I can well imagine that a similar scene might take place there. About a week ago, I was in the store picking up some drawer organizers, because that’s what I do when I get a couple of days off, and as I finished paying and had turned away from the cashier, she assaulted me with a fairly aggressive “Merry Christmas!” It was so insistently intoned that it made me stop in my tracks and look back at her.
She was one of those older ladies who dyes her hair that color that kind of splits the difference between grey and blonde, know what I mean? She wore a Santa pin on her uniform vest, and glasses on a chain around her neck. Her name tag placed her squarely in that set of women whose names are no longer in favor in this country: like Bertha, and Marjorie, and Eunice. Her jaw was set at a defiant angle, and her eyes narrowed their gaze at me. In the instant while I considered my reply, I imagined a meeting between workers and management wherein the employees were ordered to end each transaction during the month of December with a generic and inclusive “Happy Holidays.” I also imagined conversations among those who expressed, in between puffs on Pall Malls out on the loading dock, their determination to defy the directive, and their conviction that Christians, especially the English-speaking ones, you know, are the beleaguered martyrs of this country who love the
And I wondered why she had picked me. As a middle-aged white woman, did she figure me for a friendly? Was her salutation an invitation to respond in kind, a sort of
I considered a variety of replies, from “Fuck you!” to “Happy Hanukkah!” and I suppose several in between. But at that moment, what struck me as sad, and sort of regrettable about the whole situation was that she was not only kind of missing the point of Christmas, but in fact even missing the point of wishing anybody a merry anything.
I squelched a sincere desire to retort “Christmas is not a weapon, bitch.” And then instead I smiled at her and said “Merry Christmas to you!”
And I meant it.
Because I may not be a Christian, but I believe in Christmas. Peace on earth, good will toward mankind, and all that. It’s a good idea, Christmas, and we’re living in a world sorely in need of some good ideas. So let’s all keep Christmas, all of us, and when we choose to defy the bone-headed so-called “politically correct” middle managers of the world, let’s defy them with love in our hearts and in our voices, not vindictiveness.
And merry Christmas, hardware store lady. For Christ’s sake, merry Christmas to you. Always. Always.