Dad and I went to Home Depot today to get some bits to fix up our sprinklers. We had a broken wax washer and we needed a new one.
The first game at Home Depot, of course, is "Seek the Employees." The employees try to hide from you, but have rigid rules they must follow. For instance, they have to wear orange vests, which makes them clearly visible from great distances. They have various techniques to overcome this, one of which is to hang out near shoppers wearing orange shirts. Also, they have a superior knowledge of the rat warren/warehouse maze and can slip in and out of the stacks like the Phantom of the Opera. Another rule they have to follow is that if you actually speak to them, they do have to make some attempt to answer your question. This is a deadly cycle, because other shoppers will see an employee helping someone and run -- sometimes as far as a mile -- to get up close to them and quickly shout out another question before the little orange leprechauns can escape.
Another technique they'll try is to give you a false answer that appears to be a true answer. Like so:
Dad: Can you tell us where to find washers?
Home Depot Employee: What kind?
Dad: I think it's felt.
HDE: Oh, metal. That would be aisle two.
Later, Dad and I discussed whether she actually misunderstood the whole "felt" thing.
Me: You said 'felt' right?
Dad: Yeah, I should have said 'fiber.'
Me: Maybe she misunderstood us when she sent us to the metal washers.
Dad: I just said the first 'F' word that came to mind.
We searched out another employee, one of the rare and harassed "stationary" employees who sit behind a desk in hidden alcoves, providing a diversion for their roving, orange-clad brethren. We made bonus points when he revealed the secret "plumber phone" in a hidden aisle, where we could summon someone to help us. But we found another employee just before using the Red Phone, and she pointed out "What we have" which was... not what we needed.
In the end we had to go find an actual plumbing supply store... Grover Electric and Plumbing Supply. We walked in and immediately a gentleman named Louis called us over to his service station, took one look at the faucet in my hand and leapt away, only to return with a small plastic baggie filled with all the replacement bits for our faucet, including the Washer We Sought. Then he disassembled our faucet, which was hard to unscrew (in fact, Louis called upon the name of Jesus many times while he struggled to get it apart). He finally broke the handle with some special tool, put it all together, gave us advice about when we reassembled things at the spicket, and even gave us a quick tutorial about where we could expect leaks if there was trouble: "If that O-ring doesn't seal in there tight, water gets in the pipe, comes down this way and right out that fricking hole." Yes, that is verbatim.
In the end, Louis saved us at least forty minutes. And he said fricking, which is a sure sign that he is a knowledgeable plumber and not part of the orange army. So, let us extend many thanks to Louis, He of the Superior Plumbing Knowledge. He said to us in parting, "I bet you're glad you didn't go to Home Depot, aren't ya?" We nodded and exchanged knowing smiles. Only suckers shop at Home Depot, and we were not suckers. No, we possessed a knowledge arcane and strange, wild and untamed as the planets, fixed and predictable as the stars. For we were part of that ancient brotherhood, the fricking plumbers.