In Praise of Local Hardware Stores

Too bad I didn’t have a Martini when the window broke. It wouldn’t have saved the window, but it would have saved time and trouble. See, I had the wrench in my right hand and could have held the Martini in my left. Then I’d have thought about the local hardware store right away.  

Maybe I better explain.  

The wrench was what I used to break the window.(1) Besides, I don’t even like Martinis. But with a Martini in one hand and a wrench in the other, I’d have been sure to remember my father coming home for supper, which would have reminded me of his workshop, and that would have made me think about the local hardware store.  

Dad came home from his engineering office, weary but cheerful, every afternoon at five-thirty. Mother always had a Martini waiting for him. He always put down his brief case, took off his coat and tie, sat in his overstuffed brown chair, grabbed the afternoon paper and that Martini, and relaxed.  

Well, not quite always. About once every two weeks he’d come home at five-forty-five and, brief case in hand, head directly to his cellar workshop. My mother would look at me, smile, and say, “Dad’s been to the hardware store again.”  

He had been to the hardware store where he’d bought a new tool or maybe an attachment for an old tool, something useful, not too expensive, and small enough to fit in his brief case. He’d stash it in a box or a drawer, then come back up to the living room, set his brief case in the corner, take off his coat and tie, and relax with his paper and his Martini.  

As it happened, however, I did not have a Martini in hand, which is why I didn’t think about a hardware store when the window broke. I went instead to the nearest do-it-yourself home-improvement haven, and asked the man at the door where the window glass department was.  

I might as well have asked where the unicorns were. He shrugged and aimed me at the service desk.  

The manager at the service desk did understand what I wanted. Problem was, he said, they didn’t stock window glass. Only glass they had was to thin, too fragile to use in windows. “We can sell it to you,” he said, “but I’d strongly advise against putting it in a window.”  

I thanked him for his courtesy and honesty, and asked where else, on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon in May, I might find window glass. “Just up the road, less than a mile,” he said. “On the left. Can’t miss it.”  

He was right. Less than a mile. On the left. Couldn’t miss it. Big neon sign in the window: “OPEN.” Pulled in and walked up to the door. Little paper sign on the door: “closed.”  

At that point, senescence stepped aside. Nostalgia took over. I finally remembered. Hardware stores. Hardware stores used to carry window glass. Perhaps they still do.  

Another mile and a half up the road was a hardware store. The manager said hello and asked what I wanted. I told him I needed a piece of window glass, eight and quarter by thirteen and an eighth.  

“Okay,” he said. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” Four minutes later he returned with a piece of glass, wrapped it securely in heavy paper, and asked what else I needed.  

If my father were still around, he’d have thought of something else he needed. I thought for a minute, recalled the ancient can of window putty in the basement, certain by now to be rock-solid. “A can of putty,” I said.  

Naturally, he had that as well. I thanked him, took the glass and putty home, fixed the window. Nothing more needed doing. It was time to relax.  

As I said, I’m not much for Martinis. And there’s no gin in the house anyway. But there is a bottle of Jameson. I sat down with a bit of ice and a bit of Irish, and drank a toast to my father and to local hardware stores.  


  1. (Don’t ask.) ↩

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