My saddest hardware store experience
In Scotland it is not like in Germany that there is a hardware store on every small town entrance road. In St Andrews, the next larger town, you can shop in the “Home Improvement Store”, which is a small general store selling coffee pots, paint, saws, screws and cleaning products (which are not available in the drugstore, which is only responsible for personal care). There is also another hardware store in the neighboring town of Anstruther, but I only found out about its existence ten years later by chance from a neighbor. You can’t see it from the outside at all, you have to know that it’s there. Inside there are around 80 very full and untidy square meters, and at the back there is a warehouse for rotting garden fences, half-heartedly protected from the rain. There’s quite a lot in this small space, more than in the home improvement store for sure. That’s the situation.
Until now I always thought that it had to do with the rural location. Elsewhere, in Dundee or Perth, perhaps even in Cupar, I imagined wonderful giant hardware stores.
But now the sewer line is blocked, which leads from the kitchen outside, down the outside wall and into an open sewer shaft. On Thursday I was already up to my elbows in this sewage shaft (I can’t go any further, the pipe then makes a curve). So it was worth it that I watched so much “Kempinger Rohrreinigung Berlin” on YouTube in December 2021 and afterwards. Because I learned three important things: Firstly, sewer pipes are not very mysterious, you can open them and look inside and poke around in them. Secondly, experts usually don’t do anything super complicated, they just poke around patiently (and with the right tools) until it works again. Thirdly, the standing water is black and smelly, even though this pipe only drains the gutter, kitchen sink and washing machine, but other people wade around in completely different substances all day for work without feeling disgusted, so I can also immerse myself up to my elbow in it . I pulled out handfuls of autumn leaves, mud, sand and medium-sized stones and the water has been draining from this spot ever since. The sewer pipe from the kitchen is still blocked.
Then we’re on our way. But today we are passing through Perth, and a search on Google Maps for “hardware store near me open now” leads us to two open hardware stores on the outskirts of the city. On Sunday! Maybe there will be a more competent poking spiral there and the necessary spare parts for the sink, the drain of which I unfortunately destroyed when uncovering the wall access. (It was 70 years old and rusty.)
From the outside everything looks normal:
We go in and stand in a small anteroom with a counter where, it looks like, you can only pick up what you have ordered. Confused, we go straight back out and look at the rest of the building. Next door is not the actual hardware store, but rather a shop for horse and farm supplies. There is only this small room with the counter. The hardware store apparently works like the British retail chain Argos: you have to browse the catalog, tell the counter staff what you want, and then it’s handed to you.
We try the second hardware store, which is right next door:
But it’s the same there. I want to leave straight away because I find the idea of having to describe my wishes to the counter staff too repulsive. I’m sure you won’t be taken seriously and will be lectured to at first, and I don’t even know what most things are called in English. Aleks says: “While we’re here!” We both leaf through the laminated catalogs on display for a few minutes. The most important thing, a drain spiral, doesn’t exist here at all. So we go back to the first hardware store.
Instead of laminated catalogs, there are tablets on which you can browse the store’s website. We find at least some of the things we were looking for without any problems, Aleks sends the order and we go to the counter, where an employee is on his way to pick out the products. Or maybe someone else has already started picking things out in the background, because the checkout employee comes back with our things a suspiciously short time later. We pay and leave.
It was the most joyless visit to the hardware store of my life. But customer-friendly in that you really aren’t tempted at all to have, in addition to the things you’re looking for, 20 meter extension cables, fairy lights, multiple sockets, painter’s tape, drills, never-buy-again brush assortments, great new types of glue, storage solutions or squirrel-shaped indoor fountains to take with you.