The kitchen sink is leaking again. Why call an expensive plumber when I can just run down to the giant, big-box hardware store and buy a new washer for 13 cents? Ten minutes at Do-It-Yourself City and my problem would be solved.

Well, that was the theory. It seems that the one thing a lot of people can’t do themselves is park a car. Not even parallel parking — this is plain and simple, pulling into an empty space.

Another thing people can’t do themselves is return their empty shopping carts to the collection area. They just leave it in the empty spot next to their car. So by the end of the day, every empty parking spot has an empty shopping cart in it. It’s like Chinese Checkers out there. The winner is the person who gets the last cart out of the store and into the parking lot.

I’ve already spent 10 minutes driving around, trying to find a space. I’m thinking Amazon could have delivered the washer to me by the time I park the car. And why are were all these holiday shoppers at a hardware store? Shouldn’t they be at Christmas City or Toys for Grown-ups? Why are they Christmas shopping at a hardware store?

Because every store is a Christmas store before Christmas. The hardware store may sell hammers and saws and wrenches and faucet washers, but in December, they also sell Christmas trees and poinsettias and wreaths and lights and stocking stuffers and Christmas cards and holiday lawn ornaments and seasonal candy. It makes perfect sense. The only real surprise is that they don’t sell pumpkin-spice faucet washers.

My grocery store, my pharmacy, my gas station and my coffee shop sell many of the same stocking stuffers the hardware store sells, but their selection of washers is usually small. DIY City has an aisle full of them. The gas station convenience store sells doughnuts and wrenches and batteries and light bulbs and pizza and fidget spinners, but I still have to go to another store to buy fine French wine and printer ink. What kind of convenience is that?

I’ve heard you should never go shopping on an empty stomach, but who knew it would apply at DIY City? At the start of every aisle sits a display of tasty treats. Bags of strawberry licorice. Jars of honey with fancy labels. Hand-fried potato chips. Gourmet popcorn. Dark chocolate bark with nuts. Jams and jellies that you’d never buy for yourself. All of it beautifully labeled, as if you weren’t going to eat it on the way home, but give it as a present to a friend. Maybe the host of a holiday dinner.

You wouldn’t even have to wrap it; all the items are covered in seasonal icons like wreaths, bows, holly and ornaments. It’s obvious they’re meant to be presents. And it’s probably a good idea to have some of these around the house, because there’s always someone who shows up that I’ve forgotten to put on the list.

But should I give such a present without tasting it first? What if it’s all package and no product? It can’t be a good idea to give someone something that I wouldn’t eat myself.

I was back at home, showing off my gifty haul, before I realized I’d forgotten to buy the washer. Time to come up with a good story.

“So, you’re telling me that DIY City was out of washers?” Sue said.

“Apparently they’re a big gift item this year.”

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