I went to my local Home Depot the other day in search of a screw. For my office chair. And I brought my four-year-old son, Leo, my associate man-of-the-house with me. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, whatever the hell that is, the average Home Depot is about 130,000 square feet. I’d say that’s about the size of San Marino or Monaco, to put it in layman’s terms.
My Home Depot is a veritable United Nations- there are Arab employees who wear the hijab, scores of Latinos, Somalis, Ethiopians, Koreans, Chinese, and Vietnamese. I’ve encountered employees of every imaginable ethnicity save African Americans, whites, Native Americans and South Asians. Many of the employees don’t speak much English and some seem to resent being asked to perform tasks, such as looking for screws.
“They’re over in aisle 37,” said a middle aged Korean man in one of HD’s distinctive orange vests.
“Can you show me?” I asked. “I mean, there’s a lot of screws over there.”
I wasn’t exaggerating. I’ve been sent to this store to look for screws before and there are millions of them. Ok, maybe not millions, but thousands for sure- tens of thousands- an entire long row of them.
My Korean friend had a look of deep dismay. I could tell he wanted to say, “Fuck off- look for it yourself,” but he couldn’t, so he trudged off towards aisle 37, resigned to helping us find our screw.
As we arrived at the screw aisle, my man asked to see my screw again.
“Oh, that’s a metric screw,” he said.
“Well, we probably don’t have it,” he said.
“But look at all these screws!” I said, pointing to the whole row of screws on display. “It’s got to be here somewhere.”
He grudgingly started poking around in search of my screw, opening up a variety of drawers, sighing and muttering from the exertion. After a few minutes, he concluded that they didn’t have it.
“I think that’s like a European screw, or something,” he said.
“A European screw?” I asked, incredulous.
“Yeah, you should try Ikea or someplace like that,” he said.
Leo, who had been amusing himself by touching all the nuts, bolts and screws he could get his hands on was just as surprised as I was that we couldn’t get our screw.
“Actually Home Depot is ridiculous,” he said. “They should have that damn screw.”