Not that I'm doing any Zen gardening, mind you. I refer simply to the fact that last week I taught some 4th graders an art lesson about Japanese Zen gardens. This required much rooting around for supplies. First on the list: shoebox tops to serve as garden containers. Where the heck, thought I, am I going to find 30 shoebox tops? I considered emailing the parents and asking them each to send their child to school with one. I thought about randomly raiding my friends' homes. I thought wistfully of all the box tops we had broken down and sent out with the recycling right after the holiday. And, finally (my brilliance takes time, you see), I thought: a shoe store!
So I headed over to a shoe store that shall not be named. At the door I was greeted by a young woman with one of those Madonna headset things (evidently, selling shoes today requires more...communication?...than it used to). "Hello," she said. "Do you need help?"
"Yes. My daughter's class is working on a project, and they need shoebox tops."
She stared at me with nary a glint of oh-I-get-it in her eyes. I explained further: "So I thought I'd come here and ask. Because this is a shoe store. Do you have any shoebox tops?"
"Oh...no," she said, not quite sure of herself. "We don't have any of those."
"Really? 'Cuz this is a 2-story shoe store, so I'm thinking you probably have some shoebox tops."
She looked around. "Well, let me ask someone..."
I left her without saying farewell. I found a manager, who told me to come back at closing time, and she'd give me everything they had. Thank you, manager lady!
Next on the supply list: river stones. Easy.
And then: moss. No problem.
Moving on: twigs, acorns, pebbles. Done!
And, finally: sand. Sand which would be placed in a nice layer at the bottom of the shoebox top, and then raked with a fork into pleasing lines and curves and whatnot. I went to the craft store. They were selling 3/4 lb. bags of sand for $3.49. I figured I needed about 10 lbs. I left the craft store and walked into...KMart. I've never been to KMart before; I will never go to KMart again. And, besides, they did not have sand.
I went to Home Depot. Smallest bag of sand: 60 pounds. They sent me on a semi-goose chase to the lumber department, where a nice man named Jamar whispered, "Have you tried Orchard Supply Hardware?"
I called Orchard Supply Hardware. "Do you have small bags of sand?" I asked. "A ten pound bag, let's say?"
"Yes, we do."
"Yes, ma'am, I'm sure."
Great! I drove to Orchard Supply Hardware, where I accosted the first salesperson I saw. "I need a ten pound bag of sand, please."
Again with the blank stare. "I don't think we have anything that small."
"I just called. The lady on the phone said you definitely have 10 pound bags of sand."
We walked over to some sort of display with various tickets depicting various bags of sand. "You just want, what, regular sand?"
"I guess. Like the kind of sand that goes in a sandbox."
He stared at the display. "Smallest bag is 50 pounds."
I sighed. "Okay. Can I buy the 50 pound bag, take what I need, and leave the rest here?"
"No. We wouldn't be able to do anything with that."
I looked dramatically around the store. "You mean there's absolutely nothing you can do with some sand in this HOME AND GARDEN store?"
His loathing was thinly disguised. "No. We would just throw it away."
"You would throw the sand away?"
It was at this moment that I thought of the headset-wearing young woman at the 2-story shoe store. I hoped with all my heart that these two people would never meet, never fall in love, and never procreate.
So, anyways: I bought a 50 pound bag of sand. And do you know how much it cost? $4.99! I was grateful for one thing only: that I hadn't purchased 10 bags at $3.49/each at the craft store.
Here's what the kids made:
In other news...just yesterday I received a text from the taxi driver who took me back and forth from the airport in New York sixteen months ago. Here's what it said:
Hello Veronica! Happy New Year from crazy New York. May Almighty God Bless u and ur families with Health, Peace, Happiness and lot of money. Tarek, ur Egyptian Taxi Driver.
Happy new year, Tarek! And happy new year to all of you, too!