One of the things people always reference when discussing their love of
At the very least, these self-sustaining little pockets of activity usually include a bodega, a pizza place, a nail salon*, and a dry cleaner. There can literally be four dry cleaners on the same
This, of course, is why ginormous chain stores were created. And though chain stores are meant to be bastions of the far flung masses, here I find myself, in my new apartment, living across the street from a Target.
It’s impossible to quantify the convenience of living across the street from a Target, but if I had to try I would say it’s somewhere between “makes me a better man” and “life saving.” Need a picture frame? A corkscrew? Packing tape? Chicken? These are all things I have bought at Target in the past two weeks. It is, for lack of a better word, mynewbestfriend, one who is always there for me in my time of need.
Like yesterday morning.
It was a normal morning, if on most ordinary mornings you wake up and clog the toilet. But it’s not even that I clogged the toilet, it’s that the toilet got clogged. I’m not going to go into it, but I will say that there are distinct philosophical differences and one involves something that rhymes with shoop and one involves our world’s increasingly troublesome environmental crisis and the toilet industry’s misguided attempts at helping with low flow technology, combined with my love of flushing things (it’s like a magic garbage).
Anyway, no plunger. This shouldn’t seem odd because we just moved in and everyone knows that you never, ever move a plunger with you from home to home. It is one of those things like light bulbs that you leave behind to whomever should live there next as a housewarming gift. Something to say, “Good luck living here!” Unfortunately, we were the first people to live in this particular apartment, breaking the altruistic cycle.
At that point, I knew two things: 1. That I had to go to Target to buy one, and 2. That I definitely did not want to go to Target to buy a one. The idea of an unshowered guy walking into Target at 9:30 in the morning to buy nothing but a plunger was beyond sad. I may as well have worn a large posterboard sign reading WHOOPS! I’M HAVING A BAD DAY.
Still, it had to be done. I put on the most inconspicuous outfit I could think of (khakis, a white tee shirt, hat, flip flops, and sunglasses), and then I walked over.
Immediately upon entering, I realize I have no idea where to find a plunger. I try hardware first, and it’s not there. Then I head over to the cleaning supplies. Nothing. The store is huge, and plungers seem to defy categorization, being half-tool, half-cleaning supply, all gross, and nowhere to be found. I cave and ask a salesperson.
Me: “Do you know where I could find a plunger?”
Her: “A what?”
Me: “A plunger? You know, for toilets?”
This last sentence is accompanied by a reflexive, though highly regrettable hand motion that was intended to illustrate how plungers work.
Her: “I think they’re in
While I couldn’t say “No thank you,” the last thing I wanted to do was be led by this woman to the bath section where she would present to me (perhaps with a flourish of her hand) a large display of toilet plungers. Luckily, once we arrived all we found were three plungers, all the same, tucked behind some ornate trash bins.
Now, when I think of a plunger, I think of a crude apparatus. Wood handle, eraser-colored rubber head. That’s it. This plunger was . . . well, so much more.
It’s made by a company called Room Essentials (so true) and features a translucent faux-glass handle adorned with a decorative, orb-shaped tip. The head is made of glossy black rubber. It does, dare I say it, live up to its name: Deluxe Plunger.
Whether this made me feel better or worse about buying it is debatable, but fact is I still had to get out of the store. I got on the express line and stood there as casually as I could, holding the plunger more like a dapper cane, hoping people may think that I’m not buying this plunger because I need it, but because I just like the way it looks.
The woman in front of me is buying a compact of blush and the guy behind me has a loaf of bread and a carton of eggs, all things that a normal person may purchase on any given morning. There I stood between them, trying hopelessly to seem at ease with a deluxe plunger in my hand. The woman buying the blush looks back at me and smirks. I don’t blame her. The guy behind me won’t put his bread and eggs on the conveyor belt with my plunger. Don’t blame him, either.
After taking my money, the cash register lady tries to bag the plunger, but due to its odd shape can only wrap the head in a plastic bag and tie it in a knot, thus drawing more attention to it. It’s at this point that I totally give up being embarrassed about buying a plunger at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning. “Hey world!” I might say. “My toilet isn’t working properly!” And everyone in the store would stop what they were doing and say, “Been there!” (including the attractive woman buying the blush) and we would, in that moment, all feel like a neighborhood, everyone united by the occasional failings of modern plumbing.
Indeed, upon entering my building at home I waved the plunger at the concierge in the form of a big hello. He didn’t look at me funny. In fact, I don’t think he looked at me at all.
* How a manicure became as ubiquitous a necessity as food and clean clothing I’ll never know, but ask Brooke what she misses most about New York and she’ll tilt her head to the side, lost in a pleasant memory, and sigh, “Koreans.”