John Oliver & Nick Offerman visit the Big Box

John Oliver & Nick Offerman visit the Big Box November 3, 2014

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver offered a great segment on state legislatures — “the frat houses of democracy.” Oliver’s report even includes an observation we’ve made many times here — that New Hampshire’s legislature seems way bigger than it needs to be (“424! Sparta fended off Persia with only 300 people, and for some reason New Hampshire needs 424 to issue a [bleeping] leafy stamp.”)

But even closer to home was another fine segment of the show in which Oliver addresses what is, for me, a particularly relevant subject: Customer service workers in home improvement stores.

Oliver enlisted Nick Offerman, Sarah Baker and Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) to dramatize why my colleagues at l’grande orange could never be replaced by robots.

Closest I’ve come to a scene like that involved a couple shopping for a solution to their ants-in-the-kitchen problem. It wasn’t clear at first which was more important to them — solving that problem or assigning blame. I diffused the tension between them with my standard pest-control section riff on grace and gratitude.

gratitudeIf you’re shopping at that end of Aisle 2, you’re having a rough time. If you’re there, it means you’ve got a problem that needs solving, so if I find you there, I’m going to try to help you solve it.

Sometimes, though, it can also be helpful to step back at look at that whole section. Here are the ant traps you need for your kitchen, but take a moment to look at all the many other things here that you don’t need — the bedbug shields, the flea foggers, the rat traps, the scorpion sprays.

“It could be worse,” isn’t much comfort, but it helps to keep perspective.

Sometimes people follow that riff and leave feeling maybe a little bit better about the pest problems that we’ve hopefully also just solved.

That didn’t happen with the angry couple fighting over who was to blame for the ants in their kitchen, but their mutual dislike for the weird guy rambling about gratitude restored a bit of their common ground, and I think they left on friendlier terms than when they arrived.


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