Observations of the Wealthy at the Hardware Store


Over the cashier’s desk, standing alone in the aisle, is a man in a smart suit. A deluxe suit. Likely bought with one of those slick, exclusive credit cards that expects and requires regular one-time 1K charges. Between aisle two and three, beneath the florescent lights, he is gripping a wrench, looking at it as if waiting for the answer to come to him about why he is holding it, why he is meandering the town hardware store in the middle of the afternoon.


Potomac, Maryland is one of the wealthiest places in the world. When I describe my drive to work to friends back home, I tell them to think of the house of Downton, except twelve of them, each situated in a perfectly emerald field of their own, some with blue ribbon horses bounding through them, most with two staircases curving up high to enormous doors, several sparkling cars parked in the drive. Just a block away from where my Aunt and Uncle live, construction crews are assembling a series of condos going for one million each, each one with its’ own private elevator.


The Bethesda magazine that sits on the rack boasts the cover of a blond woman in a red pants suit with the title, We are Wealthy, Healthy and Wise, so why aren’t we Happy? 


The man in the aisle turns the wrench over, again and again, and I imagine his story. I’ve seen other men like him. They come in filled with some pseudo confidence, asking for specific, rare brands or types of tools, fertilizer, plumbing parts. It only takes a few minutes, a few follow-up questions until the jig is up. They stand there in naked humiliation and head hung defeated and say they found it online or a friend told them about it and no, they don’t know how to use it.


I imagine them as children not being boyish in the societal sense of the word, fascinated by things other than fixing the toilet or building a birdhouse. Since their toys were not hammers and screws and drywall, they maybe felt not enough, but unable to alter it. And this hole sinks in them. They’ve tried filling it with financial success and trophy wives who birth them three children that chase each other through their gigantic houses and horses circling them and all The Help dusting, precious privileges that a very, very small few have the luxury of finding, and yet, all it takes is the wrench. Just a small mass-produced tool mocking their inadequacy beneath the florescent shelf show lights.


And maybe that’s the problem with money. It asserts itself as the end all cure to whatever you feel is broken inside you. Whatever wounds so deep, it promises it can patch, but in the end, they return to that which is hurting them. We, I guess, all do. Like, instead of appreciating who he is, what he’s become, what ways he can change the world around him, he comes back to this piece of metal that reminds him of the one thing money cannot buy. He hasn’t changed the way he’s seen himself, he’s simply changed the way he’s played the game, first filling it with stuff and then, upon failure, going back to give it one last ditch effort. A self-fulfilling prophecy over and over.


And I see why they’re so unhappy.


This is one of MANY, unrefined, thoughts I’ve had while working at the hardware store. May post more later. Just kind of needed to get this one OUT THERE because it keeps ping ponging around my mind. What makes a person really, really happy do you think? Rick Warren says its’ not about us, and I tend to agree with that, but I’m wondering if that means it’s NOT OKAY to be happy. What do you think?