Me and Jimmy Buffet: Searchin’ For That Lost Shaker . . .

Bought any salt and pepper shakers lately? Yeah, me neither. Maybe the last ones I bought were when I got my first college apartment in 1965. I guess salt and pepper shakers last so long that you don’t have to buy them very often. But I thought I’d buy some this weekend. Lillian and Chelsea went to Denver to a concert. I’m holding down the fort. Was going to go play golf today but got sidetracked and it got too late. So, like Jimmy Buffet, I went searching . . .

See the reason is, I broke our pretty good everyday salt shaker a few days ago.  It was a nice pale green glass salt shaker, the same color as our pepper shaker and our butter dish, and was balanced precariously on a tray of stuff I was carrying to the patio for a picnic supper, and I had a disagreement with the screen door, and the shaker lost its balance and fell off onto the cement. Shattered. Uh oh. Spilled salt. Bad luck. I quickly set the tray down on the table and scooted back over, bent down, grabbed a pinch of salt and threw it over my shoulder. Hopefully I wasn’t too late to scare off the devil. We’ll see if he’s still around by how much bad luck I have.

It’s a stupid screendoor—the screen is in the middle instead of on top, which means you can’t lean against it when you are carrying a tray of stuff out to the patio for a picnic. The broken shaker is the screen door’s fault. That’s what I explained to Lillian when she came to see what the ruckus was about. She nodded patiently, like she did when I said that the reason the pliers was laying up there on the roof was so it would be there the next time I have to fix the stupid rain gutter again. Uh huh. She’s so polite.

So, the girls are out of town, I guess I’ll go get some new pretty good everyday salt and pepper shakers. I headed for TJ Maxx, figuring they are close, and  kind of a funky household products store, and I should be able to buy some there. I had only been there once before. That was when Lillian was out of town and I broke the big white mixing bowl. Fell off the stupid kitchen counter, which is about six inches too short. Don’t know why they made it so short. There was plenty of room. Anyway, it was a classy, really old, really big (probably about 8 quarts) white mixing bowl and I figured it was probably a Crook family heirloom, because it had a crack in it and she hadn’t replaced it, so it must have sentimental value. I was in big trouble. So I went shopping. First to TJ Maxx, to find a really classy (white, if possible) mixing bowl to replace it thinking that would ease the sting a little bit when she got home. No luck there, but I found one at Kohl’s, across the parking lot, a big green one (just about the same color green as the salt and pepper shakers), pretty nice and about as big as the white one, and I took it home and put it in the exact spot the white one had been since the day we moved into this house. And waited. Lillian came home. A few days went by. Nothing. Apparently she wasn’t making anything that needed mixing and neither was I.

Finally I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Hey, honey, did you see that big new green mixing bowl up in the cupboard?”

“No, let me look. Oh, okay. Why did you buy that?”

“Well, I broke the big white one, and I’m really sorry, so I bought this to replace it. Was it a family heirloom?”

“Oh, that old thing? I bought it at a rummage sale. But thanks for buying a new one.”

Well, I walked every aisle in the home products section of TJ Maxx today. I should have been buying sipper cups, because they had about 42 different styles of those. But only one set of salt and pepper shakers. Big. Metal. With grinder tops. We already have a set like that for company, except ours are wood. I’ll try Kohl’s, across the parking lot. No luck. No salt and pepper shakers. None. I wanted to find a store clerk and ask just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind, but it’s a holiday weekend and there’s a skeleton crew working and I would have had to stand in line behind the three ladies lined up at the checkout counter just to ask about something I was pretty sure they didn’t have, so I left, scratching my head all the way back to the car. Why don’t these household products stores have a nice selection of salt and pepper shakers? I headed for the place that has everything: Walmart.

I entered Walmart. I looked up at the big signs hanging from the ceiling directing me to the right department: Household. I found the salt and pepper shakers shelf. I say shelf, not display, because that’s all it was. On one shelf, about 18 inches were devoted to the entire Walmart selection of salt and pepper shakers. Four kinds. Not what I wanted. I want everyday, but pretty nice everyday, shakers, not cheap clear glass with metal tops like they have in restaurants. Walmart had two kinds of those, little ones for $1.97, bigger ones for $3.97, and two kinds of grinder shakers, one glass, one metal, like the ones I have at home except that mine are wood, for $6.97.

Okay, K-Mart is on the way home. I said to myself as I drove down U.S. 83 “I should have gone to K-Mart first. They’ll have what I want.” I’ve been a K-Mart shopper since, well, since about the time I got my first college apartment in 1965. They never, ever let me down. Always go to K-Mart first.

Yeah, right. K-Mart’s selection was worse than Wal-Mart’s (see the photo at left). Three kinds of clear glass with metal screw-on tops. One style had rubber pop-up caps over the metal top to keep the rain out, I guess, if you‘re having a picnic and it starts to rain. There were more kinds of ash trays than salt and pepper shakers. Ash trays! Who buys ash trays any more?

Okay, that’s it. I give up. I’m going to go home and watch the golf tournament. Even that is more exciting than this. Yeah, right. It’s raining in Greensboro, the golf tournament is on hold, they’re playing a re-run of the 2010 tournament to keep us entertained until the rain stops—to keep us from turning the channel over to the Wimbledon tennis tournament. Well, they lost me, not to Wimbledon, but to a re-commitment to replace those @#%#@&%#@ shakers. I’m going to Herberger’s. To a classy store, where I’ll pick from a wide selection in their spacious and inviting household products section.

“Umm, excuse me, miss, could you show me where the salt and pepper shakers are?” She hesitates for a second, then takes me back to a corner where, on about two feet of shelf space, are lined up about six different kinds of—you guessed it—grinder shakers, some big, some a little smaller, some very fancy, some glass, some metal, some a combination, none of which I want.  No, I explained, I have some like that. I want glass ones, colored glass ones, kind of everyday, but nice everyday. Slowly she leads me to the dinnerware section, and points to the salt and shaker set that accompanies a 148 piece, or something like that, set of dinnerware. You can buy these separately, she says, and departs to wait on a customer waiting to check out. She’s the only one working in household products today, and I was lucky to corral her for just a minute to find these for me. Now these are nice glass dinnerware sets, plates, cups, saucers, bowls, glasses, and each accompanied by a set of shakers. Colored glass, several different colors. They are small, round, probably 2 ½ inches high, and perfect, except that I don’t see any in a color that will match anything else in our kitchen. Which, I am thinking, would be the least offensive to Lillian’s sensibilities? I settle on a dull pink, the closest I think I can come to our dark red pretty nice everyday dinnerware. How much, I wonder. I pick one up and turn it over. Price tag on the bottom. It says 1 of a set of 2. $25.00. (See the picture at right)

Twenty five dollars! For two little pieces of glass! One has 3 holes in the top, the other 7. $2.50 per hole. I am not outraged, but I am flabbergasted. I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect $25. Toto, you’re not in K-Mart any more. Now I’m not a cheapskate, but I did not set out to spend $25 on a set of pretty nice everyday salt and pepper shakers. Never mind that I had already burned $15 worth of gas driving around town. It’s the principle. As I walked down the mall toward Target it came to me that I had probably not thrown enough salt over my shoulder, and I had probably not done it quickly enough. But I’m going to try just one more store, and then give up, and then when Lillian comes home I’m going to say casually “You know, honey, next time you’re out and about why don’t you pick up a nice set of salt and pepper shakers so we don’t have to use these good wooden ones every day. We keep using these everyday we’re going to wear out the grinders.”

Target had ‘em. Target had exactly what I expected I would find at TJ Maxx, and Kohl’s, and all the other stores. Colored glass, holes in the top. Stoppers in the bottom. $10.99. Good quality, but not so expensive that they offended my sensibilities. Several colors. I took the red ones, dark red, pretty close to the color of our dinnerware. Pretty close. That works for me. But just in case, I left them in the box, and kept the receipt. Lillian will be home tomorrow.

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2 Responses to Me and Jimmy Buffet: Searchin’ For That Lost Shaker . . .

  1. Mary Pat Schwartz says:

    As I was reading this I was thinking that you should try a small drug store or gift store or if that failed try Target. I’m glad that the salt gods were with you. And thanks for my smile of the day.

  2. Christine Hogan says:

    Very fun story. Sometimes I wish I had your life. But hey. Life is short. Why not just go for it and use your good wooden ones everyday? Those grinder mechanisms may surprise you and wear out long after you do. Lately we’ve been taking the lazy route and buying the non-refillable pepper and salt grinders at the grocery store. I hate to admit it, but I’m guessing I’ve easily spent (i.e. thrown away) $25 or more on them by now. Your essay made me rethink that plan. I do think we devoted readers need an update–at least a picture of the set you ended up with, and Lillian’s verdict on how they coordinate with, or perhaps even spice up? your pretty nice everyday dinnerware.

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