Figured I'd play with the blog feature here. I intended to post observations regarding a particular tool that all gardeners use but a funny conversation with an old friend led me to posing the question in my title. Oddly enough that old friend was my first landscape employer, we'll probably always be friends. The opportunity he provided me completely changed my career path. I was attending school for hospitality management and might likely have ended up working in a hotel otherwise.
My first job out of high school was at a large chain garden center/craft store. I completely stumbled/bumbled into that. I was out job hunting and noticed roses on sale. Not many nurseries where my folks lived so I figured a new rose or two might appease my Mother? You probably know how it is when you're young and the parents expect you to find employment. My luck wasn't so good with the job hunt so I opted for a buffer gift. Turns out they were hiring, filled out an application and started my new job 10 minutes later. Turned out to be a great summer. No time to learn much about plants, there were certified nurserymen on board to help customers with the knowledge end.
Looking back, not many gardeners showed up on the weekends but between 8:00 and 11:00am through the week? I learned to spot the customer who was merely shopping and "the gardener". Male or female. They didn't screw around, they would grab a cart and get the things they needed. One in particular stuck out first. As the summer went on there was familiarity with all the repeat customers it became easier. That one woman schooled me though. Gorgeous, long blonde hair and a yellow Corvette convertible. At least twice my age and clearly married but again I was 18... The first time I loaded her car I was very hesitant. It's a Corvette. She'd bought a mix of plants, a small tree, peat moss. etc. I pulled two carts to the Stingray and I had a terribly uneasy feeling. "Are you sure?" was all I recall being able to utter. She replied with something to the effect of "Don't worry about it I come here all the time" and then produced a small tarp from the trunk and promptly covered the passenger seat and floorboard to haul the tree.
And that's when I saw "the gardener". The part that really stuck out. Her fingernails were as stubby as my own and equally filled with dirt. It didn't match, it should have stuck out sooner. "Sesame Street" had taught be better! After filling the tiny trunk I'm still stuck with a 4' bale of peat. She had bungie cords and we strapped it to the luggage rack on the trunk lid! It was a sight to see.! The image of her pulling away, tree blowing overhead, bale of peat moss on the trunk is as clear in my memory as the day it happened.
Onward to things more recent. Now I love a good nursery but travel time and prices lead to a lot of stops at more local home improvement type places. I subconsciously nod at other contractors. Guilty of politely asking carpenters advise because I can see it's what they do. I get that back and it never really occurred to me. What gets me is how many times I "get hit" in any given garden dept. by regular folk and I think maybe it's the approach that had thrown me.
"Excuse me, do you work here?" No blue smock, no orange apron I clearly do not work there. A recent trip to a garden center and I had a lady waiting to ask me something while I was talking to another complete stranger. I don't mind. I don't have much of a social life and I do like to socialize. I certainly can't answer every query, I have plenty of my own! I have to say it does feel good to know that you might have helped someone or pointed them in the right direction. That's what great about internet forums like All Things Plants. I'm always trying and learning new things. Sharing experience is fun too.
Funny thing though. I commented to my Mom about this last Q&A session and inquired if I looked like a store employee. Mom says "They know you don't work there, have you ever looked at yourself?". I looked to my feet and back up and shrugged. She led me to the full length mirror in her bathroom and there stood "the gardener". Beyond the razor and the toothbrush I rarely really look at myself. There I stood grinning. Dirt from the brim of my ball cap down to my worn out work boots. Worn and torn cell phone case, pocketknife, hanging key ring and the dead giveaway beat up faded pruner holster packing a well worn tool.
Good for a chuckle but I felt accomplished. Under all that dirt and wear/tear stood a guy complete strangers found approachable. I have to admit that it makes me feel pretty good.
Hope you all enjoy a happy garden this season!