A BBQ, Mel, and why I love Toronto

Our BBQ has had it. Not that it owed us anything. Ten years ago we bought it for $120, assembly included. I had learned the hard way with our first BBQ, an el cheapo Grillrite that I paid about 60 bucks for — sweet. That is, until we got it to our old townhouse and started assembling the sucker after a few beers at about 3 p.m. By 8:30, I was gnawing my own arm off from hunger and ready to toss the SOB off our balcony. We never did get it put together the way the indecipherable instructions indicated. We had planned on steak that night. In the end, I think we had cold hot dogs.

Now, I loved my old BBQ. It wasn’t fancy, though it had a green lid, which I thought made it a bit special. I cooked many a meal for friends on that grill, with a few spectacular disasters. (The calcified remains of a particularly gooey chicken marinade comes immediately to mind. And the time I forgot it, after a few too many white wines, and we were seconds away from having to call the fire department before Kim heroically did something to put out the flames. The blackened lid was forever after a reminder to grill sober). I had replaced its guts twice. I didn’t even mind when its grill rusted out toward the end of last summer and the retrofit version didn’t quite fit. The front end of the grill was elevated a good inch higher than the back.  No problem, I thought. Kim likes her steaks medium while I prefer mine passed through a warm room. I cooked mine far from the flame and Kim’s close to the action. They were done at the same time. I thought that was cool. But Kim said it was time for a new grill, and I love to shop. So Mel, who was visiting this weekend, got roped into coming with me to Lowe’s. (We left Kim happily at home.) I’d seen the flyer, and spotted a deal. Besides, it would be nice to have a new BBQ in time for my birthday next weekend.

For a second it looked like we would make record time. Lowe’s, unlike Home Depot, actually has staff on hand to help you. Mr. BBQ instantly steered us to the grill I wanted, neatly talked me into $20 extra for a custom BBQ cover and had the box loaded for us on a dolly all inside of 10 minutes. That’s how I like to shop. In and out, done. I paid, wheeled it out to the car, and, since poor Mel was useless today with a sore back, had a Lowe’s guy named Sujan waiting to help me stuff the box into my car.

But the box wouldn’t stuff, despite Sujan’s manly efforts and my un-spacial suggestions. Mel wisely procured a tape measure. It was never going to fit, either in the backseat, or the trunk of my Mazda 3. This wasn’t the first time I missed my old truck. I had opted to get the thing home unassembled, despite past experience, because I was assured assembly isn’t the pain in the ass that it used to be, and also, frankly, because I didn’t want to wait and pick it up another day. Now I was stymied by the proportions of my rather sexy but somewhat impractical car. Damn. But hey – how much could delivery be?

75 bucks. Ouch. (Assembly, btw – free.) So much for the deal. On sale, the BBQ was $158.  You can see why I was unimpressed with the situation. Enter the good Samaritans.

Imagine standing in a stinking hot parking lot at Lowe’s on a Sunday just before noon. Can you think of any other place you’d rather be? Right, just about anywhere else. A couple had been perusing the BBQ aisle, and I’d offered them my flyer, since I didn’t need it anymore. That was the full extent of our interactions before this moment in the parking lot.

“My husband says we can help you out.”

“Pardon me?”

“With your BBQ. We have a van. We can deliver it for you.”

I was gobsmacked by the generosity, and the Brit in me instantly declined. Thanks so much, but no, that’s too kind, etc. etc. We don’t live near here. But she was serious.

“Where do you live?” So, I told her. It was a good 20 minutes away. “Hold on,” she said. And went to consult with her husband. Two seconds later she was back. “No problem. He’s happy to do it. Because there’s no way you girls are getting that into your car, and the delivery charges are crazy.”

I couldn’t argue with that. But I couldn’t ask them to do it for nothing. “So throw him a few bucks for gas,” she suggested. Good idea. Done. And thanks so much.

Mel was very quiet during this exchange. It all came down to a basic  difference in our personalities. As Mel said later, “I’m naturally suspicious.” Mel worried that they were conning me. That didn’t even occur to me, until Mel suggested perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to let complete strangers load a brand new BBQ into their van and drive off with it. I know that Mel had a point, but I thought no, there is no reason not to trust these extraordinarily generous people. So Mel bit her lip. People have complicated, busy lives. Driving out of your way for complete strangers is going to screw up anyone’s Sunday. It turns out that Leanne (we had finally shared names) had arranged to meet  a friend at a paint store not far away. After making a call, it was clear that she would miss her friend, who was doubtless enroute to said paint store. So, we could either split up, and meet at my house after the paint store meeting, or… I said we’d be happy to follow them to the paint store and wait. I’m not a complete idiot, and Mel’s wariness had by then rubbed off a bit on me.

I guess Leanne just likes to do decent things for people. She gets a 50% employee discount at the paint shop, so we watched while her friend happily  loaded up with a ton of paint and accessories and saved a bundle. Then I led the way home. Matthew then helped me carry the BBQ box to our back yard, where we surprised the hell out of Kim and then all sat down together and had a get-to-know-each-other visit over beers. It turns out that Leanne loves to garden, so Kim gave her the tour and sent her home with some plants.

Who says  Toronto is  cold and anonymous? I love this city.

And the guy at Lowe’s didn’t lie; assembly was  a synch.


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