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Saturday, August 23, 2003
I drove this morning to Home Depot to buy a watering can. Not just any watering can. But one of their cheap green 2 gal plastic ones with the sprinkler head. You wouldn't believe how hard these are to find. Last week they were all sold out. Well, there was one, but it was missing the sprinkler head. I found one like it at Armstrong's the next day, but it was red and I worried it would traumatize the plants or attract the attention of hoodlums and thieves. The woman in Gardening told me they'd probably have some in this week. Keeping in mind that probably, I called first and was told they had sixty in stock. I was very explicit about describing what I wanted. The guy on the phone said they had plenty. So I buggied on over there.

After searching in vain for ten minutes, I approached a couple employees who were talking to a woman about indoor palms. One of the employees turns to me to ask how he can help me. I tell him I'm looking for the green 2 gal plastic watering cans with the sprinkler head. The other guy interrupts his conversation with the woman to tell me that they're all out.

"But, but..." I stammer.

"Sorry. All I got are the metal ones you see there."

"The $16 ones?"


I'm ready to go all Lou Ferregno on his ass, but the woman's there with a stroller and I figure she's probably annoyed enough that I've just interrupted her conversation on geraniums. So I go over to the Customer Service desk. By this time I'm back in David Banner mode. But the young woman I get instantly has the green freak-out hormones coursing through my veins:

"Yeah, you probably talked to our Call Center which is in Mission Valley." She has little American flag pins all over her apron. "You should have talked to someone here."

"They told me you had 60 in stock. Is it possible that you have some in back?"

"There is no back. Everything we got is out there."

"Can you double check? I drove 20 minutes to get here." It's only like 5 miles away, but have you tried to drive in San Diego lately? You probably have, as it seems like everyone and his mother visits here. My mom was just in town on vacation with sister and step-dad last week.

She rolls her eyes and picks up the phone. I'm pretty sure she's talking to the guy I just talked to, as she doesn't seem to have to say much, but regularly nods and grunts with knowing exasperation.

"Was that the guy I just talked to?"

"Yeah. He said he'll check the receiving dock. You can have a seat." She points to a couple sorry chairs in front of the hiring kiosks wedged behind a big flashlight display.

Meanwhile, a little old man with a Spanish accent starts to complain to her that the carpet he was told yesterday would be ready for him today is not ready for him. She gives him the treatment, too. Takes his receipt, looks it up on the computer. He tells her that he picked up some of his order yesterday and was supposed to pick up the rest today. Staring at her computer, she says, "Well, I got your file here and I don't see any order picked up yesterday. Someone shoulda made a note on your file. But I don't see any sign your order is even ready." She then picks up the phone, says a few words to someone, leaves the poor little fellow hanging.

A few minutes later, the first guy I talked to in Gardening, Shawn, returns. He says he checked and there are no watering cans. I go into full tantrum mode. Bang my head against the counter. Start weeping. I blubber, "But my plants -- I need to water my plants!"

He says, "I'll tell you what. I'll give you the metal one at the same price."

I look him in the eye, "You'd do that for me?"

"Sure. Let's go pick one out and I'll write you up a ticket." And he does just that. And I'm touched. Sincerely touched. After doofus in the call center and Babs in customer service, the sweetness of this act stands out like the sprinkler-headed nozzle on a watering can. Like a red-tag sale sticker on a 9-piece screwdriver set. Like the scent of a jasmine plant after a stroll through the fertilizer aisle. Now my tears of inchaote vengeance are tears of lifelong loyal customer appreciation. I shake his hand. And then, as I get in line, some crabby old woman who reminds me of my deceased great-aunt snaps at me for trying to cut in front of her.