It was to be a day for caulking. The caulking around my bathtub had certainly seen better days, and it was well-past time for it to be tended to. I’ve had the maintenance guy do it before, but since I hate calling the landlord and I hate having people in my apartment when I’m not there, I decided to do it myself. Why not do it myself? How hard could it be? A nice trip to a hardware store to pick up what I’d need and I’d be set. It was actually kind of exciting! (When the high point of one’s day is not just caulking but the anticipation of caulking, one might, perhaps, strongly consider looking into some hobbies.)
Let me just say that I love hardware stores. Hardware stores and office supply stores. I’m not really sure why. As far as hardware goes, I don’t really buy many hardware supplies. I have a previously-owned hammer and a few thumb tacks. A couple of screwdrivers. But for some reason, I love walking up and down the aisles filled with exotic things I’ll never use, like a table saw. Seriously, I could spend hours in a hardware store, just looking.
I was, as always, met by the store’s greeter, a jovial old guy (about 70) who directed me to the caulk aisle. (Note: one needs to enunciate as clearly as possible when saying “I need some caulk, please” to a man who might be just slightly hard-of-hearing — the potential for embarrassment is … well … likely.) There I was, in the caulk aisle, trying to figure out the futuristic technology of a caulking gun when a nice (female) employee came up and made me feel considerably less stupid than I was already feeling. She showed me how to use the caulking gun and happily pointed out the existence of anti-mildew caulk. I thanked her and picked out a couple of relatively non-threatening items (as I said to myself, rather less convincingly than I had at the beginning of the day, “of course I can do this!”).
I then headed back to the nail section. For the past couple of months, I’ve been unable to find a nail just the right size, with virtually no head, needed to put up a piece of Mexican folk art (a colorful fish made out of a coconut shell). (Okay, so I’ve tried only twice to find this particular nail, and never actually in a hardware store, but, still….) I finally found the perfect nail: very long and thin with no head (it has to fit through a very small opening in the coconut shell and goes in the wall at a ridiculously wide angle). I asked another jovial old guy (75?), this one back in Nails, if I could buy just one nail. (I wasn’t sure what the procedure was for nail-buying — can you buy only one, or do you have to buy, like, a gross?) He smiled at me as if I were a 4-year old with sausage curls and dimples and a great big swirly lollipop, and he told me that I could just have it for free — “if you promise to come back.” During our very brief exchange of nail-talk, he touched me. A LOT. I think I’d even put this in the “pawing” category. After I’d thanked him, I vacated Nails and left in search of the next item on my list.
Whilst browsing in Wastebaskets, I turned around to find Old Nail Guy standing right next to me (he’d crossed an impressive amount of store acreage to reach me from his assigned nail perch waaaaaaaaaaaaay in the back). He clutched at me and exclaimed, “You came back already!” He held on to my free, non-wastebasket-bearing arm with great vigor as he rubbed my back and leaned in very close to my face to smile a big toothy grin. Working in a hardware store a few hours a week as a retiree must be a great opportunity to pick up the chicks.
Once home, I began preparing for The Caulking. I checked the internet for instructions. I cleaned the tub and began to remove the old caulk with a putty knife. …And I couldn’t do it. The old stuff was too hard to remove, and I was afraid I was going to scratch both the tile and the bathtub and incur the wrath of the landlord, so I figured I’d just call and have him send someone over who had more ability (…i.e. more patience) to do it. So I would have to venture back to the hardware store to return my caulking items, admitting defeat and dodging the lascivious Old Nail Guy. Kind of disappointing. But I can’t remember a time when that bathtub has been so satisfyingly CLEAN! I seriously considered dining in there. Caulk be damned!