DIY : Orange Blood – Sara Beth Allen – Medium

The phone rings in the darkness. All of the lights have just gone out. What is normally a busy building bustling with workers hauling materials and the beeps of machines backing up is silent, except for the daily onslaught of Christmas carols. “I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA SANTA CLAUS.” I am locked in a Home Depot.

Twenty minutes ago, my manager came over the intercom system and said, “Let’s get ready to go!” I didn’t know he meant now. My schedule said I was on duty until 9:00pm. What kind of boss lets you go home early? I sat at my design desk nestled in the back of the store until 9:00pm. That’s when it got eerily quiet around the store.

I get up from my desk in the design department and walk down the main aisle of the store. I make it to the break room where I look at all the coats, boots, and water bottles that people leave behind each night. Like all of these boots, I have been left behind. This is why we can’t have nice things, Sara. Your boss tried to let you go home early. A S.W.A.T team must be watching me on camera. I flip through my company training manual and there is nothing about what to do if you get locked in the store. Nothing. I Google, “Help! I’m locked in a department store,” on my iphone. Nothing. Google is supposed to know how to handle every situation. I don’t even have a single manager’s phone number.

This building is supposed to be hard wired into Home Depot’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta. “IT’S A MARSHMALLOW WORLD,” go the speakers. They can help me in Atlanta. This must be happen all the time. Someone should be able to see me. Don’t be foolish, Sara. Corporate is not on your side. This is Home Depot. They must have lasers in the ceiling they can incinerate anyone they want.

I walk back to the public area of the store when all of the lights start going out aisle by aisle. The part in action movies where the phone rings out in the dark building is followed by the police kicking down the door? Somebody will want to know (if I live) why I didn’t answer the phone. I just can’t see the phone as I wave my phone’s built-in flashlight around. If I find the phone, the person on the other end will want to know a security password that I most certainly do not have. That will finish me and mark me as a member of ISIS determined to make my headquarters in the kitchen and bath aisle. I almost never come up by these cash registers. Home Depot should have the good sense to make the phone glow in the dark but then again, I’m the one locked in the store. Barbra Streisand plays over the speakers,

“Chestnuts Roasting on an open fire.”

I have been fired from jobs before but this is starting to make me reexamine how I feel about my abilities to be a team player.

I quietly scream at myself for being so oblivious to my daily surroundings that I can’t even find the phone in my workplace as it rings out, I stumble around by what I think is the store security system. I press numerous buttons and nothing happens. I try to jiggle the locks on the front door. I calculate how many years I’m going to do in prison for possible conspiracy to rob a Home Depot. Should I hide in the bathroom until morning and pretend that nothing happened?

Is it high risk to answer the phone? When I find it? I am terrible employee but now I am going to make the news. The local news. The state news. The national news. I never imagined I’d be in the Jerusalem Post. Good Morning, Tokyo. Breakfast with Beijing. If I do get this door open, how many alarms go off? How many people do I get fired. Including myself.



“Why should I hire you? He asks me.

I think to myself, “You shouldn’t.” I look the store manager dead in the face and tell the truth. I am qualified to make a popsicle stick birdhouse.

“If Bob Villa walks into the store tomorrow, hire that guy. You should want to hire me for wanting you to hire Bob Villa instead.”


Green paint is overflowing from the paint shaker at a rate of a volcanic action. Customers peer down at me from above the paint desk as I begin to run out of paper towels. I open the spray bottle of Windex and pour the whole thing over the paint. The paint begins to thin out under the Windex. It is going to be an hour before the paint department recovers from this flood. The lake of paint forming on the floor doesn’t dissuade my customer from trying to order more of it. “So when will my paint be ready?” Some people need to be more self aware I think to myself.

Home Depot provides a hazmat spill kit to use when cleaning up spills. I pour out an entire bag of a toxic powder that is supposed to eat up liquids. Everything is green.

The paint department is supposed to be easy to run. Press a few buttons and put the right pigment into the recommended bucket of paint base. Shake the paint. Show the customer the color you’ve made by placing a dot of the color on top of the can. Use the hair dryer to dry that little dot on the top of the can. Close the can up. Repeat.

Except the paint department is not easy to run. Department implies someone else is coming. You can’t be a one person department. On Memorial Day Weekend, I find myself thirty couples deep in people who are here to shop our $10 off a one gallon can paint sale and $40 off a five gallon paint sale. Families are ordering enough paint for ten years worth of projects and want consultations on redoing their whole house. One lady places her dining room chair on the counter and asks me if I can find a paint that will match the color of her chair. I frantically load all of these customers color choices and sheens into the computer. Memorial Day would end with me belly crawling it out of the store as one last paint crazed couple stood at the cash register clutching sale paints in colors they didn’t know what they were going to do with.

“What are we going to do with fourteen cans of slate gray paint, Margie?” a husband yells to his wife.

It’s time to advise a family on their deck.

“My deck is crumbling? What kind of paint stops crumbling?” I cheer on couples who will soon be defeated by the miserable process of power washing, sanding, and trying to paint the perfect deck they invision. Our store sells deck stains with different amounts of sanded grit in them so you can slather what feels like an exfoliating body scrub on wood that desperately needs to be replaced.

Deck stain comes in five gallon buckets that each weigh fifty pounds. While couples debate which color they’d like to take home, I am throwing paint buckets around the department for other customers in and out of shakers. I try to keep up a polite level of conversation going but I am mainly paranoid that I not flood the store with paint. One customer lifted his paint can high around a workshop of little children making birdhouses. If you want to feel like a terrible a person be responsible for a paint intifada waged against small children. When it is monumentally busy I have customers leave the store without any color in their paint buckets.

Another customer placed her can of paint down on the customer service desk only to have the paint go all over her, her purse, and the customer service desk. The customer service desk is the nucleus of the store, surrounded by dozens of customers, and members of management. If you’re looking to be as conspicuous as possible, this is the place to flood. Flood your boss’s desk hard with paint. Paint cans come in multiple sizes and if you forget to adjust the paint trays paint floods down the side of the can as you struggle to stop a river of pigment.

If Vincent Van Gogh had put together my paint department training he never could have imagined some of the questions I’d be asked.

“How do I paint my house to look like Amsterdam in the early 1400’s?”

“I have a mold problem all throughout my house. Is there a paint that stops mold from growing?”

“What paint goes on styrofoam?”

“Can I paint over my vinyl floor and not have the paint peel off?”

“How can I paint over my kitchen counters?”

“Why paint hides the smell of cigarette smoke throughout the whole house?”

“What paint goes in the pool?”

I answered all of these questions with the presence of Kermit the frog, bobbing and swaying, closing paint cans, and yelling our paint sheens at the customers. EGGGGGGSHELLLLL?

One customer asks me the differences between the endless caulks and glues we sell.

“If you put an animal on the bottle you can charge a lot more money!”

My least favorite question is about glue to hold a roof together.

None of the bottles say “roof glue.” Some say exterior glue. We live in Northern New Hampshire where temperatures in the winter can hit negative twelve degrees. If I tell you the wrong thing I could freeze the roof right off of your house.

While I learn where everything is in the department I adamantly insist that we don’t sell products that we do sell.

“Ceiling paint! Ha! Paint is paint. Don’t you worry about ceiling paint!”

Ceiling paint exists. It’s on a shelf fifteen feet away from me.


“Hello! Would you like to learn how to install a tile backsplash in your kitchen?” I want people to take my class and to feel welcome at Sara’s Home Improvement Academy. You should not install anything with the way I teach it. Some of these workshops are called, “Do-It-Herself” and if you take careful notes you can turn your house into an insane asylum.

My customer reaches over to the tile cutter and begins to show me how to install tile. I am looking at a gigantic strip of tile mosaic that I have hanging off the side of my demonstration wall. I pretend it’s perfectly normal for the customer to be helping me teach the class.

“Grout comes in two kinds. SANDED AND UNSANDED!”


I have just smashed through my third bamboo shade. The machine that trims pull down shades to fit them into windows look like a Medieval torture device used during the crusades. Speak out of turn about the king and get this rammed up your ass. It spins the shade on a long poll and then you trim it with blade attached to the pole.

“WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THAT?” my customer asks me. My customer points to the frayed edges running up and down the shade.

“You don’t have to take it if you don’t want it or I can cut you a new shade!” I try to sound very friendly but I am completely depressed at the idea of chopping up more of these shades. It wasn’t until I had trimmed ten of these alone that I learned to stop loading the shades in upside down and with the blade in the wrong place.



Orange utility buckets come into the store on gigantic pallets that are carefully placed onto the top shelves of the store using a forklift. Every few days, we bring down a pallet to restock the shelves with buckets, unwrap the pallet, stock the store with buckets, buckets are placed in dozens of locations, and put all of the extra buckets back on the top shelves of the store using the fork lift. I am 5’3 and this pallet of buckets is nineteen feet tall. Getting the buckets into neat stacks of ten involves a wrestling match that would impress Hulk Kogan. The buckets are placed into neat stacks of ten so they can fit onto another machine. The electric ladder helps you put the bucket overstock up once it has been unwrapped and removed from a pallet.

An electric ladder that can only hold fifty buckets at a time. A pallet of buckets contains what seems like thousands of buckets. Using the electric ladder requires I gate off an entire aisle to protect customers from being clonked on the head by flying buckets should I decide to go crazy and just start throwing them at people. Once I am up in the air with the buckets, this is when a line of people starts forming who would like to buy some paint.

“No, I wouldn’t mind! Just let me come down!”


“DOES THIS WATER SMELL LIKE GASOLINE TO YOU?” My customer opens his water bottle and takes a big whiff.

I have no idea if my customer has been huffing gasoline so I put my eyes back on my computer monitor and keep searching for something called, “HONEY NUT OATMEAL OAK FLOORING.” I place thousands of dollars of flooring into an order. Next we move onto toilets.


I take a look at my customer with dirt around his finger nails, hair sticking to his face, as he continues to ask me questions,


I guess it is loud in here, sir.


Sixty inches.


I stop trying to find whatever this flooring is that he saw three days ago on the Internet.



He tilts his water bottle toward me and I decide that I am not going to smell his water.


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