Some people believe they need to be aggressive so as not to be taken to the cleaners by service people or contractors. I have my doubts about that. I think those people have consumed more bodily fluids in their food than they’re aware of. I had a carpenter friend who always added a Bitch Surtax in his estimates if he could tell someone was going to be a pain in the ass.

It doesn’t really matter, because I’m not capable of being a jerk to service people. About as mean as I get is not tipping a dime over 15%, and even that makes me squirm. I’ve seen some really, really poor servers before and some of them got great tips from me for being so comically bad.

And store personnel? Neither Dave nor I can stop ourselves from goofing with them. We like our fun. We still fondly remember the young woman we were trading jokes with when we were looking for an ice cream scoop. “But not the scoop scoop kind of ice cream scoop. You know? The kind that’s more flat and you can really drive it into the ice cream.”

“Oh, I think we can call a spade a spade,” she said.

That’s our kind of clerk, right there.

Anyway, I was feeling a little abashed at the paint store yesterday. Paint stores will take your old paint off your hands for free no matter what condition it’s in, but I’ve never brought any in. There’s something about old paint. You never know when you’re going to need a little touch-up here and there. Just that eensy bit. And all you have to do is muscle the lid off a twenty-year-old can and stir the contents vigorously for a half hour so it turns back into pudding and filter out the rust and spiders.

I have several dozen of these artifacts. But lately I’ve been trying harder to get rid of stuff. I needed a gallon of house paint and I gathered up most of my old cans and brought them along. I wouldn’t have even put any of them in someone else’s car, but mine comes pre-crapped inside and out. When I hauled them into the paint store and put them on the counter, I started babbling. I’ve heard you take paint cans back in any condition, I said, cringing. If Paul Bunyan had come straight from a forest fire and danced on the counter, he couldn’t have left a bigger debris field. The second paint guy looked super happy to already be helping someone else.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “I should’ve hosed them off or something.”

“That’s okay,” he said, taking a bench brush to the scene of the catastrophe. “You wanted a gallon of paint?”

We went through the usual review of available paint grades and finally settled on the most expensive, because my house is crumbling and I figure it’s worth it to get the stuff that fends off lightning and plague. He started to mix some up.

“Oh look,” I added. “I brought you a spider.” Sure enough a very small spider was exploring the counter. The paint guy started toward it. I brushed it my way and onto the floor, in case the man was a skoosher.

He wasn’t. “Aww! I wanted to have a look at it. Looked like a little orb weaver. I love spiders.”

I bent down and coaxed it onto my finger and restored it to the countertop. “All yours, fresh from my basement,” I said. “I don’t have the glasses for it.”

He peered with his young-paint-guy eyes. “I love spiders. And insects. Everything, really. We have about a dozen raccoons and opossums at my place.”

“Wow! I never see more than one or two at a time.” I left out the time five raccoons stood on their hind legs watching Dave when he was taking a whiz behind the tool shed. Shut off the stream, as I recall now.

I talked to Dave a while about what I wanted the paint for, even though I wasn’t planning to do the whole house for a few more years. I didn’t really need a gallon, I said. But a quart usually costs close to the same as a gallon, so.

“Did you say you’d rather have a quart?” Paint guy, overhearing.

“Well, yeah, that’s really all I need, but…”

“I can get you a quart.”

Okay! But I was pretty sure he’d already mixed up my gallon. It was whacketing away on the shaker.

Sure enough, he banged the lid on and set it on the counter. “How about if I sell you this gallon for the quart price?”

Um? Sure? Why are you being so nice to me?

“Hey. You brought me a spider.”

I wonder what he’d give me for a roof rat?