So I’m back in Home Depot for the umpteenth time this week. Once again, I’m buying paint by the 5-gallon can.

Let me digress a bit. My mother, now residing in an ALF, has agreed to put her house up for rent. I plan to have it painted, both inside and out. A friend is now painting the outside of my own house, then will start on hers. I’ve been around the track on buying paint in large quantities lately.

I‘m in the store tonight, an hour before closing time. The paint section is busy; people are stocking up on paint for the holiday weekend.

I have a printed Excel spreadsheet on which I’ve calculated the square footage of different areas of my mother’s house and what’s still needed on mine, together with quantities, types and colors of paint for each. I’ve visited the color chart display and penciled in the paint brands, color names and codes. I’m organized.

The man who usually waits on me is not there. The guy behind the paint counter asks if he can help me.

”I have to buy quite a lot of paint. Can we go over there to the exterior section and you can put it in my cart and then mix it?”

He doesn’t like this. “No, just tell me what you want.”

”I want a number of different items. I know what I want. Can’t we just put it in the cart and then you can take it here and mix it?”

”No,” he told me. “I have to put it in the computer so I can get the right base. Tell me what you want.”

There are only three different bases, but if he wants me to tell him what I want, I will. I start out with,

”I want two 5-gallons of Behr Premium Plus Exterior Flat, color ‘June Day’, code '370B-4', and three 5-gallons of the same in color ‘Glow’, code . . . “

Once I’ve finished reading the whole list I smile at him and say, “OK? That’s what I want, please.”

He doesn’t blink. “Is all that written on that piece of paper, Miss?”< /p>

”Yes, but you wanted me to tell you, so I did.” Another smile.

He’s playing it with an expressionless face and a flat voice. “May I have the paper?”

”Of course, here you are.” Smile.

After punching everything into the computer he takes a hand truck over to the Exterior Paint section and starts loading cans. He has to make several trips. Then he starts mixing paint, using the 5-gallon, one-gallon and quart mixers.

As each can is mixed, he slaps a color code sticker on the lid, heaves it onto the counter in front of me, and announces the color. He doesn’t show me the paint inside the can or put a dab of paint on the label, as is customary. I ignore this. I’ve spotted a better one-upmanship about to arrive.

He puts a quart of mixed paint in front of me. “Tart Apple”.

He turns away and I pick up the small can, examine it, shove it to the far end of the counter. When he comes back with the gallon of “Chilled Lemonade” he picks up the quart and tells me I wanted “Tart Apple”.

”Yes, but that is Exterior Flat. I wanted it in Exterior Flat Enamel.”

He thinks he’s got me. “There is no Flat in exterior enamel. If you want enamel, you have to go to Satin.”

I smile at him again. “Fine, do it in Satin.” I point to my printed sheet. “It says Enamel on my list.”

He goes to the exterior section again and gets another quart, Satin this time. When he returns, the quart mixer is finished. He removes the can, slaps on the code sticker, and gives it to me. “Carolina Parakeet”.

”You’ll have to change that one, too. I specified enamel on all the quarts.”

He is still poker-faced. I am still smiling. Finally, all the paint is mixed and on the counter in front of me. He asks,

”Will that be all?”

”I can’t possibly lift those 5-gallon cans off the counter and into my cart. Could you do it for me?” I know he’s supposed to offer to do it, but I put it as a question.

“Of course”.

He has to come around the counter and lift all the 5-gallon cans again. He could have used my cart to take the cans straight behind the counter and then put them back into the cart after mixing them. But he wanted to do it by the book. Fair enough. All the cans are in my cart and he starts away.

”Excuse me, don’t you normally give large stir sticks with the purchase of these 5-gallon cans?”

The large paint stirrers are hidden under the computer. He has to make another trip around the counter. I smile and thank him again when he hands it to me. He is still stoic. I am still smiling. It’s a draw.