by Mike Todd
“Can you tell me..,” I started, but the lady in orange interrupted me, my intentions already visible.
“All the way down, make a left, first door after the bathroom,” she said, motioning toward the far side of the Home Depot, a distance that could have spanned six or seven regular hardware stores, except that those don’t exist anymore.
“Hey, maybe I’m hanging drywall today! You can’t tell by looking at me that an Allen wrench is the only thing in my toolbox. And by toolbox, I mean old change purse in the glove compartment,” I thought.
But then I looked at Zack, my two-year-old son, sitting in the cart that comes with vestigial steering wheels, the other seat taken up by a birthday gift bag with tissue paper coming out the top, and I decided that the lady behind the desk had probably made a fair inference that we were not here to purchase any of the multitude of laser-beam-shooting power tools.
“Party!” Zack said, steering wildly in the parked cart.
Until recently, I had no idea that Home Depot hosted kids’ birthday parties. Seems like Best Buy would be a more likely location, with no customers there to get in the way.
When we received the invitation for the party at Home Depot, I pictured a bunch of kids playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey with a Nailgun,” or running around the store playing hide-and-seek, with the winner discovered in a display kitchen cabinet three days later.
As it turned out, though, birthday parties at Home Depot are a thing, and not just for the grizzled homeowner-completing-projects-to-score-spousal-points demographic that you might expect. Back by the bathrooms, deep in the bowels of the big box, there’s a secret room where kids can go buck wild without impacting the commerce going on just feet away. It works out perfect for people like our family, who don’t have it together well enough to purchase presents in advance.
“Happy third birthday, Brady! Here’s a 10-amp orbital reciprocating saw. Don’t forget your safety goggles!” we’ll say.
This party continued a trend in which kids’ birthday parties are no longer held at people’s houses. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how things were back when I was a kid, because I have distinct memories of wetting my pants in Chris Epps’ driveway while everyone was distracted by the piñata in his front yard. I guess the idea of candy falling out of the sky was too much excitement for my little bladder to contain.
On that day, Mrs. Epps and I entered into an unspoken pact, whereby I would not complain about my soaked pants, and she would pretend not to notice. It was a symbiotic relationship that allowed us both to benefit from carrying on as if nothing had happened. By the time my parents picked me up, the situation had largely evaporated. I came home from the party sugar-filled and untraumatized, if smelling somewhat like an Eagles fan in the game day jail under the stadium.
Back in the party room, a Home Depot employee led the kids in a cute arts-and-crafts project, building their own little wooden tool boxes from pre-made kits.
“Okay kids, now repeat after me,” she said. “Lowe’s is full of big meanies and high prices.”
“Lowe’s is full of big meanies and high prices,” the kids repeated. Just kidding. That didn’t happen. Seems like they missed a perfect opportunity for some old-fashioned youth indoctrination, though.
As Zack splattered his new toolbox, himself and my new sweatshirt with hopefully washable paint, I looked around the table at the other kids, intent on their projects, and wondered how many of them would be running out of the bouncy castle with bloody noses if this had been a normal party.
Hopefully, this kind of party becomes a trend, and we can get some parents to start doing their parties at the supermarket, too. We may never need to run errands again.
You can pretend not to notice that Mike Todd wet himself at firstname.lastname@example.org.