THIS AFTERNOON I BEGAN a quest. Well, actually, it started last week when a tenant of mine called to tell me that he had broken the knob on his bathroom vanity faucet. I stifled the urge to say "However did you manage to do that!!?" and went right off to the Home Depot store to find a replacement.
The aisle that I needed was closed for restocking, which entailed a wait of about five minutes. Hum-hum-de-dum. (It's my special Home-Depot refrain.) When the aisle opened up, I quickly scanned the available bathroom fixture knobs, of which there was an extensive array stretching high on the wall. I squinted. I stood on tiptoe. I tried to read all the fine print. I gave up and searched for one of the always-illusive employees.
Now, today I was back, the replacement knob in hand, standing at the Returns counter. From there, I searched the aisle where Pete had seemed so knowledgeable just last week. "This one ought to do it," he'd said. No Pete to be found, of course, but eventually I found another employee, Mike, who looked me squarely in the eye and gave me this advice: "You need to go to a plumbing supply store!" then helpfully added, "I'm a plumber."
"Any suggestions?" I asked, premonitions of a haystack with needle enclosed.
"Sure, go to Wienstein Supply. It's on Prince Street."
"Where on Prince Street?" I quizzed him,
"Oh, just before you get to the ball stadium."
"On the right or on the left?" I was determined not to wander around the city streets.
Which is precisely what I ended up doing. Here I was--passing the ball stadium for a second time! Not about to fritter away more time driving in circles, I turned into a side street and parked at Penn Stone. Entering the first door I came to in the old brick warehouse, I found myself in their Patio Shop. Lovely! The mid-afternoon sun fell from the high windows onto a pleasing array of patio tables, planters, and other outdoor accoutrements, and for a minute or two I basked in the warmth and quietness, gazed at the copper-topped bird feeders and pondered the agreeable tinkling sounds poised within the wind-chimes. There wasn't a soul around to present with my query, "Please, where is Wienstein Supply? Do you know?"
"Hello!" eventually a young woman entered from a side room, welcoming me to the shop, and apologizing. "We're not ready for spring yet! When we had that really warm day last week, lots of people came in, but we want to set up our new display...put out new items. It will look so much better then." She was clearly pleased to have someone in the shop, even in its dusty winter state, and it didn't matter that I was only stopping by for directions. Ordinarily, they can't possibly have much business in the middle of winter, I mused.
As a follow-up to my pressing question, I told her of my surprise at finding this shop and the wealth of patio furnishings. "How long have you been here?"
"We've been here ninety years. Well, not the Patio Shop," she quickly added. "It was only started five years ago, but the business has been here ninety years!" She was obviously proud to be an employee of such a long-standing business. "But Wienstein? I'll have to call the guys...the guys next door," she explained, as she punched in the numbers, "They'll know."
Undaunted when 'the guys' didn't know, she was determined to be helpful. She searched on the computer, then pulled out a phone book and looked up Wienstein's number. I listened as she made another call and watched as she jotted down: left on Chestnut. left on Plum. left on Farnum.
"Oh, thank you! So nice of you!" I was grateful. I was reluctant to leave. This was so much more enjoyable than trotting around in a cavernous hardware store.
As I stooped to examine a door mat made of small stones, she relished my admiration of it.
"Aren't they great? And look, there are place mats made of pebbles, too!" She chattered on about various things, and I enthused agreeably. "Come back again soon," she said as I was leaving, "now you know we're here." Then added, "I think it was meant to be, your getting off-track and finding this place!"
Well, I don't know. I contemplated that as I turned left onto Chestnut. Was the broken faucet knob meant to be, as well?
...(to be cont'd)