I had to return a plant for my Mom on the weekend.
Returning a plant is a lot different than returning a shirt after noticing it has a hole in it the minute after you remove the tag when you walk in your door.
When you return a plant, the nursery is happy (or at least they claim to be) to take the plant back, provided you do the walk of shame past all of the beautifully, thriving, lush plants with a corpse of a lime-nugget-ninebark hoping nobody recognizes you under your beard and dark glasses disguise.
I’ve mentioned my disdain for returning things to a store but returning a plant is different. Instead of feeling somewhat entitled to flash the hole in the shirt you just bought at the girl standing behind the counter with a few comments about the manufacturer’s quality control, you basically have to stand next to your handiwork and proclaim to the world, do you see this frail, brittle, formerly bright green plant? I killed it. Yep, this is my work and I am here to ask you to a) forgive me and b) give me a brand new one so I can do it all over again and oh, I don’t want it to cost me anything.
The girl at the nursery was very kind. First she looked at the plant and then at me as though I had just eaten the finger paint that was meant only to be smeared on the paper provided. She set the carcass gently on a long, metal, flat trolley and asked if I felt comfortable maneuvering that type of cart around the aisles of the store until I found my lime, nugget-ninebark replacement.
She wasn’t trying to be condescending, it was just happening naturally. Yes, I nodded, I have no problem pushing the dead plant around in this long trolley but the truth was, it really was hard to walk around with and I ended up dragging it behind me instead of trying to push it in front of me because I hit the back of two people’s legs completely misjudging just how long this trolley actually was. Maybe she wasn’t that far off about the finger paint.
When I made it to the nursery, I heard a voice behind a trellis, behind a vine, behind a hose. She was wearing a uniform and called out, “looks like you got yourself a dead blueberry” and then proceeded to laugh. This must make her day, people buying these beautiful plants she spends hours caring for and then crawling back with their vines between their legs because nobody can care for them the way she can. Her job just became way more important than guard of a gazebo and did she really think it was a blueberry bush or was that just garden centre code for something I wasn’t meant to understand? An inside joke only those wearing bright yellow t-shirts could ever understand and laugh about at the Christmas party.
She examined the lime, nugget-ninebark and lectured me on needing to “babysit” this bush before letting it go to drought. I got thirsty when she said drought.
She also said, “Yours isn’t dead” and we had a strange, awkward pause while we both stared at what she had just referred to as a dead blueberry. Were we looking at the same thing or had she actually been looking at a dead blueberry? My plant was crumbling, there wasn’t a green, lime, nugget or ninebark that was recognizable. And why am I calling it mine? Just brown, crusted over twigs, buried in a clump of mud with a “we’ll happily let you return this if you don’t know what you’re doing” receipt tucked betwixt the prickly, gnarled base.
She agreed to let me take a new one, see-saw my way back to the check-out to tell them my story of the slow and untimely death of the lime, nugget-ninebark to a third staff member.
Wait! This wasn’t even my doing! This was my Mother’s plant and now I was going to have to answer some questions under the Noma Moon Ray spot-lights about how I wanted to proceed with the exchange. What if they wanted my Mother’s credit or debit card? I didn’t have either and I was pretending to have been the rightful owner of this thing, I would have to change my story completely.
Now I’m a plant killer and a liar? They’re never going to let me out of here without getting hosed.
The girl at the check-out treated me more like the finger paint lady, like I was a special needs gardener and went really easy on me. She even pointed out where I needed to sign the death certificate and kept her finger on the line for the duration of time it took me to write my name in case I should start writing vertically or tearing the paper into confetti.
She handed me back $6 and said the plant is now on sale.
I walked out of the store with a new plant, $6 richer (shhhh, don’t tell my Mom) and passed a man with a dead hibiscus plant on his way in.
I smiled and said, “That’s one dead blueberry.” I think he laughed but I couldn’t tell under his beard and sunglasses.