Sunday, July 8, 2012

Widowhood for Dummies or Why I Love Petco

This is a story about cat litter. The topic may not be appealing, but I think of it as a metaphor for all the things I haven’t learned to do in the years of my widowhood.

Motor skills—both fine and gross—have never been my forte. In school I might be the one of the last standing in the class spelling bee but also one of the last chosen for the kickball team. In home economics one year we had to sew either a skirt or a blouse. Mistakenly, I chose the harder of the two, the blouse. The finished product had so many holes where stitches had been torn out that I never wore it. Instead, it became a dust cloth. During the early years of my first marriage I took up knitting. What was I thinking? I made my father what I had to explain to him was a pair of argyle socks which looked like two unmatched snakes and which probably followed the blouse into the dust cloth bag as soon as I left the house. Fortunately, both my husbands were handy and I turned to them when I couldn’t unscrew, unstop, or undo something in the house. With no husband now, I have learned to manage a few tasks, but mainly I have learned who to call in emergencies. Fix something myself? The phrase is not in my vocabulary. So, computer frozen? Call the computer guy, appropriately named Angel Eden. Toilet leaking? Mop up, then call ARS (phone number 777-7777). Necklace stuck? Wake my neighbor and ask him to unfasten it.

But back to the cat litter. For many years my cats and I have been customers of Tidy Cats Cat Litter, the red label for multiple cats. My daughter, the vet, has frequently recommended that I change to a clumping litter for ease in cleaning out the litter box, but I resisted. What if the cats didn’t like it? What if they went on strike and refused to use it?

Recently I decided to take the plunge and buy clumping litter. My daughter buys hers at Petco so that’s where I went. The company is going green. In the center of the cat department is a huge tub of cat litter surrounded by full containers. After you’ve used up the litter in your container, you simply bring it back and refill it. You and your cats can now be environmentally correct.

I bought a bucket of litter, and a genial man carried it out to the car. “How much does it weigh?” I asked.

“Thirty pounds.”

Only when I was half way home did I realize I couldn’t carry the container into my house. No problem. I’ve dealt with too-heavy suitcases by partially unpacking them before lifting them into the car. I’d bring the litter boxes into the garage, fill them there and get my housekeeper to help me carry the container inside the next day. No problem.

Yes, problem. I couldn’t open the container. I tried everything—can opener, knife, fingernails. Couldn’t figure it out. “Idiot,” I muttered to myself. “Stupid.”

Finally I came up with a solution. I got in the car and drove back to Petco, reminding myself on the way that I’d never have to see these people again. There are plenty of Petco stores. I’d just refill at another one. I pulled into the parking lot, trudged into the store and shamefacedly admitted that I couldn’t open the damned bucket. The woman at the cash register didn’t bat an eye. “I’ll get someone to help you.”

“Don’t laugh,” I pleaded under my breath as another smiling man followed me out to the car and easily slipped off the plastic ring around the top, just like the one on a milk carton.

“Oh.” I smiled back at him. “I guess I win the prize for dumbest customer.”

“Naww,” he grinned. “It’s okay.” What a nice guy. What a customer-friendly store.

So I solved my problem. Did I feel better? No, I was still embarrassed at my stupidity. However, I now have an idea for a new book: Widowhood for Dummies, Extreme Version.


Susan Flett Swiderski said... [Reply to comment]

My father-in-law always used to say that you didn't have to know all the answers. All you had to know is where to find those answers. He wasn't a very educated man, but he sure was smart. You, too, because you know where to get the help you need, and aren't afraid to ask for it. I say, good for you!


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