Behind the counter.

When it’s suddenly warm outside in a place that’s been cold for the last seven months, people get happy. And while I go back and forth trying to decide whether or not Chicago is a “friendly” city, having a positive encounter at the local Ace isn’t something that happens everyday.

The scenario goes something like this. Utilizing my white trash approach to home maintenance, I went to the hardware store looking for a can of spray paint. Years of salt and nasty weather have taken a toll on our storm door and I decided I’d cover up the worn section with a dash of Rust-oleum.

But of course, spray paint isn’t readily available in the city thanks to all the hip kids who love to put their illegible little scribbles all over public and private property. The Ace near my office keeps it behind the key counter—an area of the store where I’ve never once seen an employee. After standing around for a few minutes, I decided to go around the counter, grab my goods and be on my way. But as usual, my timing was off.

Just as I plucked a can from the shelf, another customer approached the other side of the counter. He spotted me and started in with his dilemma.

“I’ve got a window unit air conditioner and I need one of those…” he began before I could interrupt.

“Sorry, man, I don’t work here,” I told him apologetically.

He looked at me with a confused expression, just as someone in an Ace smock appeared from the back room.

“Hey,” he yelled toward the employee, “you should fire that guy—he refused to help me with anything and he says he doesn’t even work here!”

Everyone laughed and I headed toward the register with my flat black fix-it kit.

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