One of the interesting things about working at Home Depot is that our customers have a definite expectation that anyone in an orange apron will be able to answer any of their questions. And the reason our customers have that expectation is because we are encouraged not to answer with “I don’t know.” When I don’t know (which is often) I’m consulting my Home Depot app, or tracking down someone from a specific department who can answer.
I may be “just” a cashier, but I get asked about pouring cement, assembling drip-line sprinklers, installing flooring, and pretty much everything else you can think of. I’ve been working a lot of hours in the Garden center, which means I’m getting asked about plant varieties and mulches and fertilizers. It’s an educational job, in the sense that I’m learning more and more as I go. With regard to plants, that has included making a habit of glancing at the tags while I ring them up. Oh, so that’s what a hydrangea looks like. Now I know.
But (just like with freelance writing, where I often don’t have a clue what I’m writing about until after I’ve researched) Google is very much my friend. Is that thing a perennial? Let me find out…
So I was in the Garden section again Sunday morning, enjoying the quiet opening-hour before customers really start showing up, walking among the plants to learn some more names, and thinking of my dad. It was my first Father’s Day without him, and I was thinking about him and his garden. He was a plant physiologist and an avid gardener, a guy who carried photos of his lilies next to photos of his grandkids. Working in Garden I’ve wished I could channel his encyclopedic knowledge of the plant kingdom.
I was having sort of a visit with him, talking to him in my head and imagining what his responses would likely be. (Actually, even when I had him on the phone, he was a guy who was comfortable with lengthy silences—so talking to him this way isn’t entirely far off from the real thing.) Short of being in HIS garden, it feels the best sort of place to commune with my dad’s memory.
Not much later, a gentleman showed up and said his wife had sent him for blue hydrangeas, and could I point him in the right direction? “Those are woody perennials, so let’s look over here.” (ARE they woody perennials? Where did THAT statement just come from? I’ve really only just learned what their flowers look like…)
We found the hydrangeas with the perennial bushes—right where I’d said they’d be—but he fretted that the one he liked best wasn’t as blue as the others.
“The color on these is affected by the soil acidity—for blue ones you want more acidic soil, or more alkaline soil for pinks and purples. You can add specialty plant food to acidify the soil if you’re specifically wanting them to be blue. We’ve got specialized plant foods on Aisle 48.” Where was this coming from? Out of all that, the only statement I actually knew to be factual was that plant foods are on Aisle 48. I don’t know a dang thing about soil acidity and hydrangea colors. I actually trailed off at that point and got out my phone to check Google and see if the things coming out of my mouth were even true.
You might choose to decide that I had somehow acquired and stored that information in my subconscious mind… but I’m very happy with the feeling that I had a garden-visitation from my dad, whispering some hints. I sent my customer on his way, happy with his hydrangea and his plant-food and the information he could relay to his wife. And I sent a thank-you thought to my dad.
I miss him. But I felt close to him all day.