Around The Rim Country

The nuts and bolts of a Rim country romance

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Valentine's Day is Wednesday, and love is in the air. That's the good news.

The bad news is that unless you are already mated, it doesn't matter what that smell in the air is. Your chances of finding somebody up here in the Rim country are not all that great.

It has nothing to do with small towns or the law of supply and demand. It's all about the fact that we don't have a Home Depot.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, "Tales of love and romance are surfacing from Home Depots all over the country."

As evidence of the truth of this statement, the readers of "Delaware Today" magazine voted Home Depot one of the Top 10 places to meet men. Not too surprising, since men have always been attracted to guy places like lumber yards.

But it works the other way, too. Nasir Khan, a realtor who has asked out more than one woman he met at the Queens, N.Y., Home Depot, says a woman who is fixing something up usually has "...good life skills and good credit." Such women have the "can-do attitude" he's looking for.

Almost takes you back to the days when one of the primary attributes a man sought in a mate was whether she had big, strong milking hands, and a man was judged as much by how he handled a plow as his good looks.

One of the more touching Home Depot encounters is recounted by Mark Mensche, who works in the kitchen and bath department at the Flushing, N.Y. depot. Once when "a guy and a girl reached for the same sink...," he reports, it was "like love at first sight."

Another romantic moment occurred at a Home Depot in Wichita, Kan. There, a man proposed to a girl he had originally met at the store over the public address system.

So with no Home Depot here in the Rim country, and, we must admit, no near prospect of getting one, it's no wonder our economic boom is slowing and enrollment is dropping in our schools. But such bad news can hardly be accepted on hearsay alone.

And since scientific accuracy has always been a hallmark of "Around the Rim," we decided to conduct an official study of several businesses that might be considered the closest we have to a Home Depot. Being helpless romantics, our goal on the very eve of Valentine's Day was to prove that romance can indeed still happen in the Rim country.

I started with Payson Paint & Supply, because it seems to me those displays of thousands of paint chips would work like the meet-your-match personality questionnaires that are so big today. You know, if two people select the same shade of gray, that would be a sign of a match made in heaven, but brown and black just never go together.

Unfortunately, owner Eric Woods has been waiting 10 years for any sign of romance in his store. "Not a one," he reported. Maybe, he thinks, because when people come in, they're really focused on the project, or maybe even because they're not in the greatest mood because of what a painting project can entail.

Surely a plumbing supply place would yield more encouraging results. After all, a lot of plumbing parts come clearly labeled "male" or "female." That would have to make it a lot easier for romantic novices.

But alas, Sparky Sparks reports that in his three years with Central Arizona Supply, no one has ever "met over a toilet." What's more, he says, their showroom really isn't big enough to have a bunch of salivating singles running around.

Down the road in Star Valley, the news was equally grim. Manager Jack Welnick can't remember a single romance beginning at Lumberman's Building Center in the 15 years he's been there.

But Welnick does see a possible marketing opportunity. "I never thought of it, but maybe we could set up a little bar in the corner, and have karaoke on Thursday nights," he said.

Finally, a call to John Patricia, 13-year owner of Ace Hardware in Payson, paid off to a point. While Patricia knew of no customer romances, two of his employees, a clerk and a cashier, met at Ace and eventually got married.

"We really made a big deal out of it," Patricia said. While they didn't get married in the store, "Everybody went to their wedding."

So our scientific survey produced three resounding nays and one marginal yea, overwhelming evidence that, to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a Home Depot.

I know what cynics are saying. Considering the very different natures of the male and female, maybe this is not such a bad thing. It could avoid a lot of arguments over toothpaste tubes and toilet seats.

But I think the skeptics are ignoring a problem that could, down the line, lead to a cataclysmic conclusion. If there is one thing we should remember from high school biology, it's that where men and women never meet, there will eventually be nobody left.

The city of Atlantis is a good example. Once that town sank, its citizens found it most inconvenient to meet and mate, and historians believe that's why it eventually became uninhabited.

Is it a stretch to imagine Payson as a ghost town, with creaking doors hanging from broken hinges, peeling paint, busted windows, and abandoned homes listing precariously?

But romantic hope springs eternal on and around Valentine's Day, so we must also look at the upside.

When all the people have left the Rim country for the fleshpots of the city, this place will eventually become ramshackle enough to be the perfect market for a mega home remodeling center, like, oh, say, Home Depot.

Gentlemen, start your power tools.

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