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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Easy

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Originally published January 22, 2010

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

Yeah, I know what they say. When you have a problem, there are no easy answers, no cheap fixes and no magic solutions.

But that’s not what Robert says when I tell him about the crack on my living room wall. Robert works at Grand Lake Ace Hardware on Grand Avenue, where I always go to get problems off my chest.

I describe the crack to Robert: “It starts at the corner of the room, climbs up about nine inches and then drops precipitously, like those cliffs overlooking the ocean on Highway 1.”

Robert doesn’t appear too ruffled by what I’m telling him. Without hesitation, he leads me to the back of the store, where he hands me a jar of spackle and explains what to do: “Apply it with a putty knife, let it dry, and then you can paint it.” Well, that sounds easy. At $1.79 a jar, it’s also cheap.

It feels as if a huge boulder, like the sort that might fall off a cliff on Highway 1, has been lifted from my shoulders. I won’t need to call a contractor, who’d say he’ll try to come next Tuesday at 3:00, when he’ll actually come next Friday around 11:30 (when I’m not home). I also won’t get the contractor’s bill that’d make me wish I’d opted instead for oral surgery, at the same cost, which I’ve been putting off.

When you find someone who really listens, like Robert, it’s hard to let him go. It’s also hard to stop at just one problem. There’s more, I confess to Robert. “My son threw a football, which turned and twisted like a torpedo, before striking an electrical outlet plate and cracking it.” Robert doesn’t even raise an eyebrow as he directs me to the aisle where I can find a new plate. The cost is 39 cents.

I keep going: “There’s an unsightly scratch on the hardwood floor in my daughter’s room, caused by the metal feet on her bed frame which shift around.”

I give a big exhale as I finish. Robert tells me that I need cushioned rubber cups to put under the feet of the bed, so it doesn’t move. He points me to the rubber cups which cost $2.99 for four.

With all the great advice Robert has given me, I hesitate to bring up the scratch on the floor again. Even I know a problem like that will require redoing the entire floor; sanding and finishing by a professional at a hefty cost. But Robert is marching ahead. He goes to an area which stocks household cleaning products. He grabs a Zenith Tibet Almond Stick and tells me that it will hide any scratches and I won’t even know they’re there. Could this really be – a magic solution?

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no such thing as an easy answer, a cheap fix, or even a magic solution. You can find them at the hardware store. Just ask Robert.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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