There have been Black Fridays where I am getting out of bed at seven in the morning to walk the dogs, and Mark is coming in the front door with his arms full of crap he has just bought. Mark is one of those people who never pays retail for anything. If it's not on sale, we don't need it. Last Friday was no exception. I had got my "All I want for Christmas" orders from Mark a few weeks ago. A smoker is what he wanted and it was going to be on sale at Ace Hardware the day after Thanksgiving. So at eight in the morning on Friday, I found myself being driven up to the nearest Ace Hardware store to buy Mark his Christmas present. Ace Hardware stores are nothing like Home Depot or Lowes. They are usually funky little places that are run like a mom and pop store. We walk into Hanna's Ace Hardware and find one single person in the store. That was the owner and he was sitting behind the checkout counter.
"Can I help you boys?" (I often hear that 'boy' thing when I walk into someplace with Mark)
"We're looking for the barbecue smoker that was advertised."
The man put a quizzical look on his face for a moment.
"Smoker, you say?"
"It was on the Ace Hardware web site."
"Oh, we're not that Ace Hardware. This is a privately owned store and all that Ace Hardware advertising doesn't apply here."
"But the signs, the logo. It says Ace Hardware."
"You want the Ace Hardware down by the beach. Go down Commercial, over the bridge, and it's on the right hand side of the street."
Off we went to the Beach Ace Hardware store. We walked in and found a long line of about twenty people waiting at the checkout counter, and one employee looking haggard already at eight thirty in the morning.
"Um... excuse me."
The Ace employee barely looked up.
"Do you have the barbecue smoker that was advertised.... "
"No, we only had one and I sold that on Wednesday."
At this point Mark told me that there was one other Ace Hardware over on Cordova Road, clear on the other side of Fort Lauderdale.
"Goddamnit, just take me home. Get in the car and take me home."
When we got to the house, I went on the computer and found the same smoker at Walmart. It cost four cents less than the one advertised at Ace Hardware and included free shipping. Merry fucking Christmas Mark.