Ask most men what they plan to do once they’re retired, and they’ll talk of writing or painting, or simply working on their golf game. Hardly anybody says he plans to spend more time at the hardware store. But this is what they do anyhow.
It’s partly because we now have the time to putter, to fix, and to otherwise do all those things we once hired others to do. Also, it just feels uncomfortable to sit there reading the paper while a handy-man is doing a chore you know you could handle if you simply put your mind to it.
Your hired man may act as if you’re not there, though he may not secretly be questioning your manhood. On the other hand, he might be. It’s just a matter of time before you set aside your memoirs or your five iron and, with a sigh of resignation, toddle on over to the local hardware store.
Mind you, this is nothing like a visit to the software store. Yes, technology is a wonderful thing. But too often, the sales clerks who populate these places make little distinction between the old and the obsolete. To tell one of them you’re using a previous-generation computer is tantamount to admitting you came to the store astride a burro.
Likewise, the classic hardware store is not to be confused with those mammoth home centers—cavernous places vaulting six stories high, where the help wear orange vests and customers emerge carrying sheets of drywall, industrial cable and rented jackhammers on forklifts.
We refer instead to the more intimate mom-and-pop store, where neighbors move along clogged aisles hung with tools and materials evoking a simpler, more innocent age. Here, you’ll find standbys like wood planes, for transforming raw lumber into shelves worthy of Versailles. Overhead, an array of glues for repairing everything from a child’s doll to antique furniture to cement statuary. And down another aisle: gutter spikes like spearheads, for attaching drains to siding.
Ultimately, unlike software, hardware bespeaks permanency. On some level, tools are heirlooms to be handed down. Thus apprised, you might wander through your home looking for one more stuck window, rusty bolt, busted hinge, or bricks that need pointing. What lies ahead isn’t a chore, but an adventure.
Jack Smith has written extensively on art, sports and style for the Robb Report, Town & Country, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, GQ and London’s Daily Mail. He’s a graduate of Dartmouth College and lives in Wayne with his wife, Randy, and his cat, Squeazles.