The day started innocently enough. "I'm going to Home Depot," I yelled over my shoulder as I opened the front door. Eventually this day would assume the proportions of a disaster that, though entirely personal, looms as large in my mind, and haunts my dreams, as much as the Johnstown Flood, the Hindenburg, the Titanic, and my youngest daughter's first car date.
"Want company?" Lynn, my wife, asked. And with that innocent question, began one of the most surreal days of my life.
I've been married twenty-two years. So when I heard that question, I knew what the answer had to be. There is no "no," in response to that question. Not even a "No, thank you." Or even, "I'm only going for some weed killer and light bulbs. You'll just be bored." Certainly not, "I want to be alone." Anyone who has been married any length of time, who has managed to stay married any length of time, knows that the only variable in answer to that question is exactly how much enthusiasm you're going to show. I opted to go for full-tilt on the "Perfect Husband Scale," even though we all know that even Mary Poppins only get "Practically Perfect."
"That sounds like fun," I responded.
The drive to Home Depot was uneventful. Only three blocks away. Barely enough time for "Bad Moon on the Rise" to play on the radio. (I should have taken warning, after all, the first line is "Don't go out tonight.")
We got to Home Depot and I headed straight for the garden department and the weed killer. And that's when things started to get, well, strange. (Think Paranormal Activity strange). Somehow, without knowing how, I found myself in flooring, three aisles over from gardening and the weed killer I'd gone to get. Even though somehow I had known, something like this was going to happen when I'd said, "That sounds like fun." At that moment, I realized I was no longer going to the hardware store, I was going shopping.
The difference can be traced back to our early evolution - not my marriage, humanity's. There, in lighting, the caveman hunter/gatherer dichotomy was playing out once again, separating humanity into the men - and husbands.
Even after all those thousands of years of civilization, men are still stuck in the hunter mode; we haven't evolved past it. We pretty much don't want to. Still cavemen in our heart of hearts, we go straight for the prey. In this case, weed killer. We kill it. Gut it. Skin it. If we really want to be macho, eat the liver raw. Then, carry the bloody carcass back to the cave to the admiring "Ohs" and "Ahs" of cavewoman, who, unfortunately, has evolved past all that.
Women have continued to evolve (or, at least that's what my wife tells me.) They have become calm, resourceful, (and as long as you don't get in their way, peaceful) gatherers. The secret to being a gatherer is to slow down a little, wander about, breath in your surroundings, look for red 50 percent off sales tags.
So, even though the weed killer is only 20 feet from the front door, we managed to find ourselves in paint ("Didn't we talk once about repainting the girls' bedrooms?") plumbing ("I wonder if they've got any bathroom fixtures on sale.") and counter tops ("Do you think natural granite holds up as well as artificial?")
Somewhere along the way we picked up a shopping cart. While hunters can survive in the wilderness with just a Swiss Army Knife and their wits, gatherers need a basket. Or, two baskets and a shiny new Home Depot In-Store Credit Card. ("Did you know that we get 10 percent off any purchase we make today? Didn't you say once you'd like to add a deck? Maybe we should look at lumber.")
Now, you might wonder why this experience has been etched so painfully in my psyche. Hasn't he been shopping with his wife before? Doesn't he know how it goes? And the answer is yes, I have been shopping before. I know how this plays out in a department or boutique. Been there; done that; got the T-shirt.
The difference is that when we get home from Penney's or the Gap or Shoes-R-Us, she and the girls take packages to their rooms, try on the clothes they just tried on at the store, and come out to model them for me, even though I saw them at the store. When we came home that day, I took all the packages out to the garage - except of course for the stuff that was going to be delivered - and started adding up the Saturdays I'd spend remodeling. ("You'll be able to putter around the house. You'll love it.")
About that time I had decided it didn't look as daunting as I'd thought, Lynn stuck her head through the door. "Lowes is having a sale. Want to go?"