Back in “the day” there was only one hardware store in Cincinnati, Aufdemkamp’s. It was the weirdest of all possible retail establishments. Located on ugly Central Parkway, the building was lowslung and very 1950-ish. AUFDEMKAMP’S screamed at you from the side of the building in aluminum letters. There were signs of instruction for how to behave yourself if you had any hope of being “helped” by the employees of Aufdemkamp’s, and you BETTER listen OR ELSE!!!
First, the was no touching anything. If you wanted to fondle some item, you had to call a “sales associate” who would unlock the case so that you could massage a screw under the watchful eye of said associate, OR he would pick it up for you, hand it to you for a brief inspection, whereupon he would replace the object into its accustomed spot unless you purchased it.
You were constantly stared at. I got the idea they inhabited a panopticon and monitored all movements, even flies if they got in.
If you did happen to look at a tool, they would decide what you were going to buy. It was hell for a woman, if you decided to buy a hammer which was (in their opinion) too hefty for you, they would not sell it to you.
I don’t understand how they thought that was good business.
I am not kidding, there was one employee in there with a German Shepard! The dog was there to scare people.
Once I had to go there on a school field trip we had to do a project with wire which could only be gotten from Aufdemkamp’s Hardware Store. The class filed in under the watchful eye of the professor (from the University of Cincinnati College of Art). One gangling kid wasn’t too big on signs, and right under one which screamed “DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING WITHOUT A SALES ASSOCIATE!!!!!” did touch a roll of the wire we needed without the company of a sales associate and immediately was treated to an encounter with The German Shepard with a fulminating person on the other end of the leash who almost drew a handgun on the poor schnook. The professor practically had to fling her body inbetween the insane sales associate and his frothing dog and the feckless freshman!
Shortly after this unpleasantness, Aufdemkamp’s shut down for good. It was the dawning of the Age of the Bigbox Hardware Store and Home Depot had finally come to town to dominate.
I sometimes wondered what had happened to the employees of Aufdemkamp’s. I suspected they got jobs as prison guards or chain gang guards but I was soon to find out the truth.
Yesterday I went to Ace Hardware to buy a bag of fertilizer. I liked Ace, it was a pleasant place where men in headsets bustled around to help you even before you were in the door. I hauled in an empty propane tank for an “exchange” and set off to find some 10-10-10 granular fertilizer in a big bag. That is very generic stuff, for all of you non-farmers, stuff which is as common as “pig tracks” as they say.
A young man came up to me,”Can I help you?” “Yes”, I said,”I need some 10-10-10 fertilizer. “Huh?” was the incredulous reply. There must be something wrong with me. He turned to his older associate sales associate and stared as if to say,”God, did you hear that? What do you make of that? Good grief!”
The older sales associate stared at me real good while pulling himself up to his full height. I am sure he thought I was some arch fiend sent to the store to confuse and confound the associates. “Can I help you?” “Yes, I am looking for some fertilizer,” I was going to start off by stating the biggest classification of the item I wanted, the next characteristic, the next and so on BUT this particular sales associate brightened leapt up in the air whilst doing a 180 turn, rushed off to aisle 7, just a few feet from where we stood and beaming and pointing boomed,”Miracle Grow, it’s right here in aisle 7!” Case closed, job done, now on to other people.
“I wasn’t looking for Miracle Grow, I wanted…” “WHAT are you growing?” he interrupted showing his grumpiness at being told he was wrong, basically. “Flowers, grass, trees, vegetable, exactly what are you growing?” It was getting mighty small in the hardware store, I didn’t see where I had failed to provide the necessary information to this tud, so I thought I would start playing with him but first I said,”Flowers.” And fought the urge to add “, asshole.”
“Oh, then you want Miracle Grow, it’s in aisle 7,” he said looking very irritated indeed. “No, I don’t want Miracle Grow,” the ‘stupid’ was silent but just barely,”I want a generic 10-10-10 granular all purpose fertilizer.”
That stopped him. 10-10-10, what the hell was that? Some incantation from a witch? Some street term? He had no idea it was the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash contained in a fertilizer, and I had no idea he was that naive. But he turned on his heel and pointed to a large bag of dry substance with a gigantic full color picture of a slime-shiny coiled worm with pincer-like mandibles and multiple protuberances up and down its front like pseudopodia or worse. The bag declared “Kills Grubs!” Ewww, no not that.
Then I was lead to the other side of the display where there was fertilizer for blue flowers, or fertilizer with 200-2-47, or fertilizer for lime rich soil or suffering from too much bat guano or raising cacti. My eye fell on a bag of 12-12-12 from a company called Green Thumb. I said,”I will take this one.” “No, you said you wanted 10-10-10,” he cried. “This is close enough,” I said clutching its 33 pounds to my bosom. “No, you said you wanted a generic and that is a brand name,” he boomed. “I never heard of them so it’s generic to me,” I said brightly. Finally, playing his trump card he flung out,”You said you were going to grow FLOWERS with it,” he fairly snarled. “I AM!” I burst out then scuttled off with my bag of 12-12-12 safe to the checkout counter where the sensible people are.
I’m lucky he didn’t chase me.
I have used that bag of fertilizer with relish. I laugh wickedly as I sprinkle grains amongst my flowers. Victory is sweet, my friends.
This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring the Spring Collection for 2015 whose theme is The Last Great Georgetown Cocktail Party. The collection will center around a short story I wrote about the adventures of my mother, her social life, and how she was a wonderful symbol of the heyday of Georgetown. The party will begin now and celebrate the last collection on my old website. For this bon voyage I have concocted twenty-one new fragrances and on whopping great short story to go with them. I think you will be amused! In this blog, I will be filling you in on life and manners in the days when ladies wore gloves, furs, and jewels in midday; smoked cigarettes with impunity, had pink gins at lunch, and generally put on the most amusing airs. So come along and be one, too. It’s a blast.