Crowd controls

wildflower print
I keep thinking it says “be past forever.”

We went to a benefit last night and stayed longer than I’d planned; almost an hour. It wasn’t bad at all—a nice bar, live music, a good cause. It was a casual low-cost benefit to augment the theater’s more traditional pricey benefit. I talked to a couple of playwrights I like, and even met someone new. I had a snack. But still I watched the clock. Midway through a perfectly nice conversation I said to Dave, “We have to go.”

Next, we drove to Home Depot so Dave could order a 30-dollar storm window he’d seen advertised on their website. On the way, we stopped at CVS for Tylenol, and remembered all sorts of things we needed: Kleenex, conditioner, foaming hand soap. We ended up spending more time in there than at the benefit. Dave tried to talk me into a no-installation-needed screen door that came in a package the size of a hand towel. “Let’s get out here,” I said.

Up front, I waited at the counter for a clerk. Dave stood at a self-checkout counter and laughed at me. “Oh yeah,” I finally realized, “they don’t do that anymore.”

We checked ourselves out. Rather, we self-checked ourselves out. None of my items would scan. A clerk came over and demonstrated the proper technique. “I know how,” I wanted to say, “I’m just not doing that right now.” Instead of swishing each item across the scanner area, I was setting each item down. I was busy thinking about the benefit. Should we have stayed longer? Did I spoil Dave’s good time? Was I missing anything?

Dave finished scanning while the clerk looked on, smiling. I noticed that Dave no longer gets angry at self-checkout counters. Not long ago, he used to fume through the whole endeavor. And as soon as something went wrong, forget it. But four self-checkout registers and one clerk mean everyone can get out faster, even if everyone needs help. It’s crowd-sourcing for Kleenex.

When we got back in the car I said, “I wonder if we should go back.”

“Huh?” said Dave.

“To the benefit.”

“You want to go back?”

“No,” I admitted, “I just always feel, at events like that, like there were more people I should have talked to, more better things I should have said.”

“I was surprised at how many people I knew,” said Dave. We went into Home Depot, where Dave learned that the 30-dollar storm window advertised on the Home Depot website isn’t an item you can actually buy.

While he considered whether to order a different one, I headed to the faux metal tile display. I found a pattern I liked for the bar backsplash, and it looked easy to install. I brought it back to Dave, who had decided to do further storm window research. “I’m getting this,” I said loudly, because I knew in advance he would scorn a faux material.


“Yep. It’s exactly what I want. It looks weathered. It looks real.”

“Okay,” said Dave. “You don’t want to use real metal?”

“They don’t have real metal. What’s wrong with this?”

“It’s just…” Dave peered closely at the panel. “It’s strange how this aging effect repeats at the same point on each square.”

Suddenly all I could see was the same repeating smudge on every fake metal tile within the panel. Like playwrights on a banquette. I sighed, and returned it to the display. Dave pointed out the poorly executed backsplash in the display photo, where you can see gaps between the panels. “They didn’t even bother to line them up right,” he noted.

We left without buying anything, which doesn’t happen often at Home Depot. The regular checkout lanes were blocked, so we went through self-checkout.

[note: to learn more about the artwork, by Gwen Frostic, visit]

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