May Day WIN at Mahoney's!
My neighbor and I collaborated recently to remove a few trees from our yards, including a row of white pines along the property line which had grown into tall, scraggly hazards to both of our houses. Because pine wood is weak, and the trees tend to have shallow root systems, and my neighbor reported that the big windstorm we'd had last winter was *very* scary in the way those pines were whipping around. I was out of town and didn't witness that, but while they hadn't gotten blown over at the time we generally agreed that the big ol' ugly monsters were better off not being there. While they did provide some shade to the driveway, they had many disadvantages -- they'd rain sap and needles and other organic detritus on the permeable pavers, which was starting to clog up the drainage stone in between, and occasionally snow-loaded branches would break off and fall, endangering cars underneath. Removal left a row of low cut-off stumps and a rather "naked" feeling to our yards, and we agreed that we wanted to put *something* back along the row to fill in the empty space and possibly hide the stumps if we didn't opt to grind them out. I suggested rhododendrons or similar shrubberies which keep their leaves all winter and don't grow much more than head height, but still tall enough to lend some sense of of yard separation and privacy. Sort of a living fence, if you will.
Mahoney's is a local chain of garden centers hereabouts, and we picked the morning of May 1 to go visit a couple of their sites and see what they could offer us. We went up to Tewksbury first, and wandered around their modest stock with a helpful old gent who offered some advice but didn't try to convince us on anything in particular. For completeness we decided to also tool down to the main store in Winchester nearby, which is a much larger property, to see if they had plants already on the larger side since we wanted to get a reasonable jump on growing the row to a good height.
We poked around looking at a half-dozen varieties of rhododendron, Japanese holly, and some other stuff. A much more extensive inventory here! The previous stormy night had blown a few plants over, so I was trying to helpfully set some of them back upright. We passed several employees of the place in the process, all of whom seemed cordial on this very pleasant May Day morning. Then one guy came by, and started in on me insisting that "We can't have you on the property with no shoes, if you stepped on something, yadda yadda" with the usual fiction about "liability". I informed him that I'm 100% responsible for my own feet and that was the legal truth of it, and that I don't wear shoes and had none with me, but he didn't want to inform himself, he just wanted to play his little power game. He repeated himself and then wandered away; it seemed likely that he hadn't actually expect any pushback on his assertion, so he might not have thought out how to try and escalate somehow. We saw him shortly thereafter talking earnestly with another employee and casting a few sidelong glances at us, perhaps wondering why we hadn't fled for the exit already.
My neighbor was somewhat shocked by the incident, not being familiar with this battle, but I reassured her it was okay, I get this fairly frequently and I don't back down until all possible recourse is exhausted. She completely understood that I was being victimized for no valid reason. We were near the cash-out kiosk at the front, and could have just left at that point since we had most of the info we'd come for -- this was just our exploratory phase to get an idea of what was on the market and how to plan our plantings. But on something of a whim I asked one of the employees walking past where their main office was, and that I had been hassled about "my appearance". I figured it might be worth filing a formal complaint against our harasser even if it wouldn't fix the problem, just to make my thoughts known to more of their senior staff. I really doubted the place had any sort of "policy" at all, it's just a big outdoor parking lot and some greenhouses, and the first instance we visited certainly didn't make any fuss at me. The worker said "hang on, let me call over there and get you someone", disappeared into the kiosk, and was in there for quite a while. I wasn't sure what was up, but she finally came out and said someone had been found and would come chat with us. The main office is at the back of the property in a sort of barn, and I offered to just walk back there myself if it would help save time. The worker said "Oh, sure, I'll come with you" and the three of us wandered back toward the barn where the office was. Whoever was going to come talk to us was taking their time as well, so we shot the shit about all kinds of unrelated stuff, like how much they feed supply into the local landscaping market, hiking in local parks, and whatever.
Finally an older woman came out, and I almost expected her to back up the guy we'd run into and tell me to find shoes or leave, but then what she said astounded me -- in a very positive way. She apologized that I had been rudely treated, and said that not only were we welcome to stay on the premises, she insisted on pressing a $25 gift card into my hand to try and compensate me for the trouble! And interestingly, at NO point in that conversation was the word "feet" ever uttered -- I didn't actually have to tell her what was going on. She had evidently learned of the interaction through her employee network somehow, possibly through the original misbehaving employee himself if he'd gone in to ask about it. So she knew what the situation had been before talking to us, felt bad about one of her people trying to push good-faith business out the door, and really wanted to make it better for me.
This is how businesses *should* view barefooting, especially one so oriented toward healthy outdoor activity.
We were then free to wander around more as we wished, so we spent another half-hour checking out different sections of the place. The Winchester center really is kind of overwhelming; they have so much stuff! And terrain underfoot was variable too, with a few patches of wet mulch that collected in low spots in the asphalt and were still all squishy from the previous night's rain. The greenhouse floors were wonderfully smooth concrete. Nothing to be concerned about anywhere in the yard, of course. The only downside of the day was that buying plants isn't cheap -- a waist-high single rhododendron in a 5 or 10 gallon pot is on the order of $150 - $200, and we would need at least five of them. The next step, though, would be to head back home and work on digging a few exploratory holes, and figure out exact quantity and placement for later.
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