Bernie: You need to get new valves for these radiators. Get Gorton valves, five size C and five size D. Write that down, Gorton. Cost about four, maybe six dollars each. Home Depot might have them, or Lowe's. If not, try East Penn Supply or R.J. Walker's. You get them, I'll replace them. But get them right away. Better sooner than later. And remember, you want Gorton valves.
Monday, 12/11, Lowe's.
Me: Do you have Gorton valves? I'm looking for sizes C and D.
Surprisingly helpful associate: We have Maid-O-Mist. They're the same thing.
Me: I was told to get Gortons. But let me see what you have.
Clerk: This is where they would be, but it looks like they're out of stock.
Monday, 12/11, Home Depot.
I find my way to the heating shelves where I see Maid-O-Mist valves, but no Gorton's. They are $9.90 apiece, more than the $8.80 apiece for the nonexisetent valves at Lowe's, much more than the $4 - $6 suggested by Bernie.
Upon leaving I head across the street to R.J. Walker's, where I find that they close at 5:00 every weekday and are only open until noon on Saturdays.
Tuesday, 12/12. An undisclosed location.
I do a quick internet search for Gorton and Maid-O-Mist valves. I can't find a qualitative comparison, but I see that Gorton valves are $9 online, while Maid-O-Mists are $6.
I call East Penn Supply at their Wilkes-Barre location.
Me: I'm looking for Gorton valves for steam radiators. Sizes C and D, five of each. Do you have them?
Woman on phone: We have five size C. They're in stock in our Scranton store.
Me: How much do they cost?
Her: $9.70 each.
Me: Great! How late is the Scranton store open?
Her: Same as us, until 5:00 every day except Thursday, 8:00 on Thursday. I'm showing that the C's are actually in transit from there to here.
Me: Good, it'll be easier for me to pick them up in Wilkes-Barre. What about D's?
Her: None here. But I'm showing four in the system, two in our Berwick store, two in another store. I can pull them here.
Me: Great. Please do. I'll be there on Thursday.
Thursday, 12/14. East Penn Supply, Wilkes-Barre.
Me: I'm here to pick up some Gorton steam valves.
Guy at counter: Here they are. Five size C.
Me: Super. Could I have a look at one? I want to make sure they're 1/8" angles. (I have seen online that they also come in 1/4" and straight configurations.)
He places a box containing five Maid-O-Mist Size C valves in front of me.
Me: These are Maid-O-Mists. I ordered Gortons.
Guy: I don't know who you talked to, but this is what we carry. Maid-O-Mist, not Gorton.
Me: Whatever. And the D's?
Guy: Not here yet. Should be here on Saturday.
Me: OK. I'll be back then.
I quickly stop in at Lowe's and Home Depot, both of which are within a quarter mile of East Penn Supply. Lowe's is still out of stock. Home Depot is still twenty cents more per valve.
Saturday, 12/16. East Penn Supply, Wilkes-Barre.
I arrive at about 11:40. Closing time is noon.
Me: I'm here to pick up some steam radiator valves. Size D.
Moe: Size D?
Larry: I don't think we have those.
Shemp: Let me look them up.
Me: I have an invoice. I was told that they were coming in from two other locations.
Moe: Other locations?
Shemp: Berwick has two.
Larry: Nothin' came in from Berwick.
Moe: Why do you want C's and D's? They're both about the same size. You don't mix 'em like that. Let me show you how a house is laid out...
Larry: We have two size D in stock.
Shemp: Computer says we have three. But two of 'em are reserved.
Me: Maybe they're reserved for me. I have four on order.
Larry: Naw, we can let you have one of these, but not both.
Moe: Let me get out a diagram and show you how a steam layout works...
Me: Tell you what. Maybe I'll come back when the other valves come in.
I leave at 11:50. It is about a quarter mile to R.J. Walker's, which also closes at noon.
Traffic is horrendous, due in part to holiday mall traffic, in part to a malfunctioning traffic light. After a long, long wait through several lights I overshoot the R.J. Walker entrance, twice. On the third attempt I enter the lot just as they lock the front door.
Now I'm pissed.
I roar back onto the road in my little Tercel and head for Lowe's. On the way I am cut off by a guy in a beaten-up pickup truck pulling out of Home Depot. It has a poorly-secured load of rain gutter in the bed, a tailpipe that is half corroded away, a nearly-flat left rear tire, and it is belching smoke and what smells like raw gasoline into my air intakes. I lean on my horn, which has little effect.
I enter Lowe's, grim-faced and angry. It is full of other people who are also grim-faced and angry to be shopping for home renovation projects in the middle of a Saturday a week before Christmas. The valves are still out of stock. I leave grim-faced and angry.
I head back down to Home Depot. The valves are still there. Still twenty cents more than East Penn Supply. Still not Gortons.
Screw it. I buy five Maid-O-Mist 1/8" angle size D valves and head for home.