The Logical Philosopher

Monday, May 01, 2006

Grumpy Old Men

It's amazing what you can get for free when you have a cute 18 month old in tow.

Out for a stroll with my smallest one I decided to turn it into a true daddy-daughter bonding trip. What else does that mean, but a trip to the hardware store! It was mid-day, which is usually prime time for retired grumpy old men to be shopping. This particular day I was not disappointed.

There were two of them in the paint aisle - gruff, with both tone and edge on every word spoken to the store staff and other customers. As I entered the long corridor stocked with painting supplies, they all stood stoicly, but the happy babbling of my 18 month old punctuated right through the gruffness they had left in the air. It started subtly, with one of them glancing over when he thougth the other wasn't. A silent peek-a-boo here, a wiggle of a paint-brush there while I chose the right hue for my application. On the other side the rough-and-tumble employee behind the paint counter silently sanded some stir-sticks.

"A doo doo!" my daughter said to all of them at once. "DOO!" Her words for 'check out the cool tools' I gathered by her wild hand gestures towards the paint scrapers.

The older employee behind the counter looked over at us. "Here you go princess, no slivers for you" he softly said as he leaned over the edge of the counter and into the stroller, a newly sanded paint stick offered as a toy. One one end was an old hand, roughened by years of manual labor and paint permantly embedded deep into the cuticles. On the other end a young tender hand reached out, not yet callosed from daily explorations of the world and not really caring where her latest toy came from. 'I guess drool does act like a tenderizor' I thought.

As I left I heard a new customer come up and ask where the primer was. Over there, he said gruffly. The tone was there but the edge was gone.

I know some of you may be thinking what power my child must in melting grumpy old men but all I kept thinking was: Free paint stir sticks! If she's getting free sticks at 18 months I wonder how long it will take to get her to work up to free Dewalt power tools. I think I'm going to keep working this angle...