Monday, October 16, 2006

Strategic Helplessness and Home Depot

or: Betraying the Sisterhood for a Power Saw

I never worked it enough in bars and clubs for my alleged feminine charms to earn me free booze or underage entry. Batting my eyelashes never got me out of a ticket when caught by the fuzz. In fact, I was starting to think this whole feminine mystique business was all a hoax. That is, all until that hot Texas afternoon when I visited Home Depot in a sundress.

It was a simple errand—needed some nuts and bolts and washers and I knew what size and everything. But after being tailed by an oversolicitous salesboy who slipped the goods into a tiny paper sack and winked that I could just take them "compliments of Home Depot," I started calling them doohickeys double-quick.

That's what I learned. Sweety-pie ignorance can be exchanged for hardware in the exchange market of Home Depot. I managed to cash in a few more times, but my needs there are generally few.
It's a slightly awkward pose, for those ladies of my generation raised to bare our intellects the way our mothers were meant to bare (or burn?) their bras. No excuses these days for playing dumb so boys will think you're cute. But pretending, say, that you don't know a language when you do? Or pretending that you don't know that it was Professor Plum with the lead pipe? Very useful at times.

Well, I fucked up a bike thing.

I borrowed my roommate's bike, see. Rode it over a few blocks, took out the u-lock to fasten it up outside the flophouse, and inadvertantly managed to reset the combination, relock the u-lock, and then spin the dials. Bike was v. v. stuck.

Today was Operation Liberation and it was no easy feat. The internets suggested that hacksaws might work to loose the punier u-locks. But this lock? Laughed at the hacksaw. The internets further suggested (take note, budding criminals) that a good car jack could be inserted into the u-lock, jacked up, and the thing would pop right open. Jesus, I don't know. The damn thing is yuppy proof or something because this was a failure.

So it's back to Home Depot. Did you know they rent power tools? I mean, anything. I saw dudes returning jackhammers and all kinds of crazy things. And they just hand it to you, like here, have a chainsaw. I don't know what I expect exactly, maybe a user's manual? Or a waiting period?

So I'm standing there with all the contractors and day laborers waiting my turn. "Whatchu need, girl?" asks Marvin, the Home Depot clerk. "I don't know!" I chirp happily, smiling with teeth. "Something that cuts metal." "Whatchu cutting?" "My bike lock." I scrunch my face unhappily to show what a silly girl am I, and Marvin snorts in amusement.

Marvin hauls out a power saw with a reciprocal metal blade, reckoning that'll do the trick. He plugs it in to test the power, and as it whirs to life I skitter back noticeably. "Aw, don't tell me you're scared of the saw, girl?" "I am scared!" I allow. I am not sure, but it is possible that nobody has made Marvin feel as biguva man today as I have done so far. I assume that my points are accumulating.

The saw was a disaster, it didn't even make a dent. So it's back to Home Depot and to Marvin. "It didn't work at all," I pout, waving the saw around. Marvin is stumped for a moment but settles on a freaking giant circular concrete saw. "Now this is a little heavy," he warns me. I aim for doe-eyed. "I'll try..."

The concrete saw, I must admit, was not ultimately wielded by yours truly. In fact, yours truly might have been cowering in a stairwell while other parties did the heavy work of showering sparks all down Florida Ave. Incidentally, it is worth noting that in Washington, DC one can free a locked bike with a massive circular saw that sparks up like the fourth-of-july and the cops will not bother you. At least if you are white. I haven't tried it any other way.

So insane overkill in the way of power tools (shock and awe, ya'll) led to the ultimate success of Operation Liberation. This is one lesson you can take from this tale. Here's the other. With mission accomplished, I lugged the saw back to Marvin to settle up my rental fee, smiled sweetly, and I'll be damned if the man didn't knock off half the price.


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