11 August, 2010

You'll find it next to the soup

So for the past few weeks, I've been looking for pipe cleaners. Not really looking looking, just whenever I remember I would poke around a likely store, ask at customer service, etc. Before you ask, no, I don't smoke a pipe, nor do I need to clean one. But I have a toddler, who has a penchant for straw sippy cups, and leaving the cups in pockets of alternate dimensions so we don't find them until the straws are green or black and full of some other-universe science experiment. And I can't seem to find replacement straws anywhere. Valves, sometimes; straws, hell no. Which brings me back to the pipe cleaners - so I can try to salvage the straws.

Mostly when I've asked about the pipe cleaners, I'm sent to customer service and/or the tobacco section. Makes sense. But our none of the local grocery stores or Target had them. But yesterday I had to run to Walmart, and I thought, "Hey, Walmart has even more crap than Target. They've got to have them." And after picking up my other items, the following scene-from-a-sitcom occurred:

Me: Do you know if your store sells pipe cleaners?

Thick-accented female employee: Pie is with desserts.

Me: No, not pie, pipe. Pipe cleaners.

Thick-accented female employee: No, pie is dessert.

Me (with confused look): Um, I'm not looking for pie. Do you sell pipes?

Thick-accented female employee: I check for you. (walks to male employee with me trailing behind) She is looking for pike learners.

Non-accented male employee: Bikes would be over with toys and games.

Me: I'm not looking for a bike, I wanted to see if you sell pipe cleaners.

Non-accented male employee: Really? You know those aren't good for you and, um, (he points to the infant on my back) the kid.

Me: Yes, thank you. Do you know if this store sells pipe cleaners?

Non-accented male employee: Not sure, but if we do, they'd be with tobacco. That's the the express lanes, just ask there.

Me: (to both) Thanks. -I then walk to the front, queue up at express and at my turn, begin anew -

Me: Do you have pipe cleaners?

Accented male-employee: You want pie?

Me: No, pipe.

Accented male-employee: Try lawn and garden.

Me: Um, lawn and garden?

Employee: Yes, pipes are in lawn and garden.

Me: I'm looking for a different type of pipe, The kind you smoke, like, with tobacco.

Employee: You can't smoke a pipe. Go to lawn and garden.

Me: Okay, I'm looking for a pipe cleaner for a tobacco pipe.

Employee: Oh, my mistake. You need household chemicals.

Me: No, it's not a chemical cleaner. It's like a chenille stem, which are for crafts, but this is to clean pipes [note: why was I trying to explain this?!?]

Employee: You want to clean it without chemical?

Me: Um, the tobacco section behind you. Can you check for pipe cleaners please?

Employee: You need chemicals.

Me: I tried to look while in line, but I can't see the whole section. Just turn around and check please?

Employee: I call manager. (turns on flashing light....groans from shoppers behind me...and one snicker)

Manager (also accented, but he seems able to understand me): How can I assist you?

Me: I'm looking for pipe cleaners.

Manager: For a tobacco pipe?

Me: Yes.

Manager: Normally they'd be right here, but we discontinued pipes and pipe cleaners. Have you checked at Target?

In the end, I went down the street to the mall and popped into The Tobacconist. Willingly walking into a 15'x15' room full of smoke with an infant is such fun...but $2.87 later I had my pipe cleaners and am planning to clean those sippy straws. Soon.

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