Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Two things make me feel absolutely incompetent: graduate school and home improvement stores.

My graduate school career was nasty, brutish, and short* and made it quite emphatically clear that I am not cut out for specializing in one particular field of knowledge while ignoring all other aspects of the human experience.** There are few feelings like walking into a situation feeling some trepidation but having a general sense of optimism that with enough hard work and determination you will be able to succeed, and walking out a few months later feeling like the biggest idiot in the world.

Home improvement stores are another matter. I think some latent form of spatial dyslexia kicks in as I walk among rack upon rack of almost-but-not-quite identical items. Everything looks the same to me and my planned purchases become ordeals. Do I want this ladder, or this ladder, or one of those ladders? These are drill bits, these are screwdrivers, where are the nail sets? Are there any safety glasses here that don't make me look like a Bono wannabe?

I spent nearly twenty minutes after work today walking up and down aisles of cleaning supplies, paints, and mailboxes (with a side trip to the storm door department to discover that, alas, the storm door I have in mind does not come in red) before I stopped a clerk on a ladder who was stocking shelves in the cleaning supplies area and asked her where I could find the dehumidifier-in-a-cup thing. She simply stretched out her arm, pointed, and said "Damp-Rid? Right there."

I hate home improvement stores for the way they make me feel about myself. I don't like being made to feel incompetent, and home improvement stores are very good at that. But I know people who love them. I once went on a date with a girl who had recently become a homeowner and who took great pleasure in doing hardcore home improvement shopping. Aside from that we got along great.*** I haven't heard from her in a very long while.

Too bad. She would have really been helpful right about now.

*Senior year in college the Philosophy Honor Society had an end-of-the-year cookout. At my suggestion it was called "Back to the State of Nature" with the promise that it would be "Nasty, Brutish, and Short." It was. It started to rain just as the burgers and hot dogs were almost ready, and we had to call it quits early.

**I have also compared it to being mugged while drowning. My graduate school experience sucked.

***After dinner we went out for a drive. We talked for hours that night, and I talked so much that
the next day my upper palate swelled up and nearly killed me by closing up my windpipe. It was all for naught, as she was on the rebound when we went out and she quickly took up with her treacherous ex again...but that is a story for another time.

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