Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Search of Pink Flamingos

It's not as easy as you might think to find a pink flamingo lawn ornament in November. And it is frankly humiliating to make the calls tracking one down. Forgive me if you are of the pink flamingo lawn decorating type, but I felt I had to justify myself each time the salesperson picked up the phone.
First I tried local stores:
"Hello, I need a pink flamingo...."
"You can't get those here. You should try Florida."
"Not a real one, the lawn ornament things with the metal stick legs."
I could see the sneer through the phone.
"It's not for our lawn...although I could see putting a Santa hat on one for a Christmas decoration. It is for my daughter's speech."
"I see. We don't carry those. Try a schlocky store...."
Finally, I tracked one down in Tennessee.
"How much is it?"
"You can have the pair for $20. And shipping...another $10"
"$30 for a cheesy plastic lawn ornament?!"
"They are really quite pretty, the color never fades."
"Thanks...I will see if I can find them locally first."
"Before you go, we also carry little wooden fat people gardening with their cute little bums hanging out."
"Thanks, I'll make a note of that for my Christmas list."

I called a respectable garden store.
"We used to carry them...but at this time of year they are hard to find. I know we had one. Let me go check."
I found myself praying for a pink flamingo, but of course only if it "be thy will."
The saleswoman returned, "No, it is gone. Must have sold out."
Oh no! There is a run on pink flamingos just when we need one. I canvased my friends. No one had one.

"When you talk to the salesmen," called Asherel from the couch where she was doing her geometry, "Be sure to ask for the good kind."
The good kind? Asherel has been researching pink flamingo lawn ornaments for a month now, so I presume she was serious.
"The original kind, made by Featherstone," she added.
I quickly did an internet search. There are indeed the good kind of pink flamingo lawn ornaments. They are in many ways indistinguishable from the cheap knock-offs. The good kind are stamped on the bottom with Don Featherstone's signature.In the pink flamingo lawn ornament world, they are the creme-de-la-creme. Who knew there could be such a thing as a pink flamingo snob?
One salesperson suggested I try Black Hawk Hardware store. It was one of those old time family owned businesses that had been in Charlotte for decades. It is filled with the types of things my grandparents could once buy in a day when mass produced uniformity was not quite so prevalent.

"Hello?" I said, as the Black Hawk saleswoman answered the phone, " I am looking for a pink flamingo lawn ornament."
"Oh....this isn't really the season for those..."
Is it ever? I didn't say that, in case she was  the type that put them in her garden.
"Well it isn't for my lawn..." (why do I care so much what an anonymous stranger thinks of my decorating taste?) "It is for my daughter. She is doing a speech and needs one by Tuesday."
"Let me check in our warehouse."

Dear Lord, I understand that there are many more important needs before you this day. So if you need to divert your energy to someone with cancer or a fatal disease, please disregard this plea. But if possible, could you somehow produce a pink flamingo in the warehouse?

"Hello?" said the Black Hawk saleswoman, "I have a box of two left."
Praise God!
"Can you hold them for me? I will be there in half an hour."
"Sure, it will be behind the counter."
"Please don't sell them to anyone else. There has been a run on pink flamingos. Do you want my VISA number?"
"That won't be necessary."
"I can be there in fifteen if I speed."
"Please don't speed. The flamingos are in a box waiting for you."
"Do you promise you won't let someone else have them, no matter how much money they offer you?"
"Yes, ma'am, I promise."
"Cross your heart and hope to die?"
"Ma'am, the flamingos will be here. Goodbye."

I didn't speed, but I was out the door and going at the maximum allowable speed limit in a flash. I hurried into the store and was met by a friendly saleswoman at the door.
"I'm the one who called," I cried breathlessly.
"Called about what?"
"The pink flamingos! Please don't tell me they are gone!"
Another woman at a cash register glanced up.
"I have them, just a moment." She exchanged glances with the store greeter.
And then she emerged with a box, with two of the most beautiful bright pink flamingos I had ever seen. And right on the box it said, "Don Featherstone original pink flamingos."
I paid joyfully and as soon as I emerged from the store, I called Asherel.
"Guess what!?" I said.
"I got the original Don Featherstone pink flamingos!!!"
"Great. Thanks. I gotta finish school. Bye."

As I was carrying my prize to the car, I passed an old woman sitting on a bench. She looked tired, worn down by life.
"Excuse me," she said.
I unconsciously held my original Don Featherstone pink flamingos close to my breast.
"Can you spare some change?"
"For what?" I asked.
It occurred to me that I could spare change for something like penicillin or a heart transplant, but I was certainly not going to spare change if she was just wanting something silly, something frivolous, something cheesy.....
"A soda," she said looking down, "I've been out of work and knocking on doors all morning. I'm so thirsty and I don't have any change."
I pulled some money out of my purse, putting the pink flamingo under my arm.
"Of course. And God bless you."
As I drove home, I glanced over to where the woman sat. She still sat there, head down, looking weary.

Dear Lord, I prayed, please help her find a job.
I have to say, there was something mocking in the pink flamingo's eye.

Matthew 10:41-42

41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

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