The sales associate had dreadlocks and was as skinny as a rail. The customer was in her early 70s, short and a little plump. She could have been three times his age. If I weren’t standing in the Nails, Screws & Fasteners aisle of Home Depot, I would have thought I had walked into a career counseling session.
She was looking for hooks, and he was presumably helping her find them. But in the end, I think she helped him more than he helped her. I was looking for screw hole buttons and couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.
At first I was annoyed. It was late, and I had hoped to zip in and out of the store. I only had two items on my list, but finding things in Home Depot is like trying to find condiments in an unfamiliar grocery store. You can wander up and down aisles in vain, and I had already hit several dead ends in my search for the elusive buttons.
I wanted to ask the young man if the store carried them, but he was too busy talking to the woman. As I waited for them to finish, I began to tune in to what they were saying.
She said she had a house for rent and was doing some repairs. He said his mom also hoped to rent her house. He explained how she had worked hard all her life, sometimes at several jobs, and was close to paying off the mortgage.
He asked the woman how much she charged in rent, where her house was located, what it took to get it ready. She patiently answered his questions and volunteered information about the upgrades that needed to be made to her property. I glanced over at some screws and drywall anchors, trying not to appear too nosy. I heard her say that selling real estate wasn’t easy. Sales don’t just happen, she said. You have to work hard to get them. You need a sphere of influence, a network of people that you can draw on for referrals.
This is good stuff, I thought. Everybody needs to hear this.
Then she asked him what he was doing to save money. Was he putting anything away from his paycheck? Had he opened an IRA? Again, it was the patient voice of experience. She told him how she saved a little bit every year, even when it was hard to do, but that over time her savings had accumulated to over $200,000. That is what she used to buy the house that she was renting.
Work hard, save your money, build a sphere of influence—sound advice for anyone starting out. I wanted to clap.
She turned to me after the young man left, a package of hooks in her hand. “It says they’re stainless steel. Do you think they will rust?” she asked.
“No, they shouldn’t,” I said.
Then she walked off with her package. No rust growing on her, I thought.
I never found those screw hole buttons, but I found something else on Aisle 16 of Home Depot—confirmation that dreams can come true if you are willing to work on them.