If we all have our own personal hell, uniquely and fiendishly customised to our own preferences, mine will be a Bunnings. An endless Bunnings, with aisle after perplexing aisle, stretching out beyond the horizon on either side with cute little handwritten signs that try and pretend that the company isn’t an enormous corporate monolith, and yet no handy sign pointing me to the one thing I’m looking for, or anybody to help me find it.
In other words, it’ll be exactly like an ordinary Bunnings. Except instead of a few snags on the barbie for a community fundraiser, the demons will be holding a sizzle of sinners’ souls.
Bunnings terrifies me because it proves exactly how incapable I am of improving my home. You can buy timber, paint, fancy new lights, outdoor furniture, complicated storage systems, even entire buildings like sheds and pergolas, none of which I will ever buy and set up myself.
I didn’t know how to use any of this stuff back when I was studying woodwork in high school and was only required to bang a nail into a wood, and I’ve lost even that ability in the subsequent years. And yet in Bunnings, there are dozens of entire categories of personal inadequacy, all helpfully signposted, from decorating to tools to kitchen to bathroom to outdoor living.
There’s even a gardening section, which I find especially confronting because not only do I have no clue which plants to buy for my windswept city balcony, but if I do a bad job looking after my plants – as I inevitably will – they will die, and I don’t need withered plant corpses on my ungreen hands. No living creature deserves the fate of being entrusted to me.
And then right when I’m feeling at my most emasculated, and am thinking about the plants I won’t buy because they’ll certainly die, I suddenly notice that there are weapons everywhere. And I’m not just talking about the dozens of chainsaws, hedge trimmers and whipper snippers on offer. (Sure, they don’t sound scary, but those things can flay innocents like a Bolton from Game of Thrones.)
Those of us who grew up during the brief, glorious peak of the slasher film during the 1980s will know that every seemingly-innocuous hardware item has been adoped by some terrifying onscreen monster at some point – those movies had an awful lot of sequels. Over the years, they worked their way through wrenches, hammers, shears, pitchforks, hoes, spades – pretty much every single item in a standard garden shed.
Multiply that effect with Bunnings’ vast volumes stacked up to the ceiling, and you have all you need for a major panic attack.
Nevertheless, despite my aversion, I braved the belly of the beast a few weeks ago. And it really was a beast – the Alexandria branch, one of the biggest anywhere. It’s so massive that there’s even a vast second level, even though I can’t imagine what they keep up there that isn’t already for sale on the voluminous ground floor.
Now, I’ve admitted to my general hardware hopelessness – but there is one thing I can do. I can hang pictures on plasterboard walls, as long as they’re not too heavy. And really, it’s about as simple a DIY task as it gets – all you need to do is scan the wall with a stud finder to make sure there isn’t any metal underneath the surface, and then screw in the anchor and attach the picture to it. Easy, even for me.
The problem was, Bunnings somehow didn’t have the thing I wanted. Oh sure, there were about forty different kind of plasterboard anchor, but I didn’t understand how to use them, and my relatives who are more expert than me have warned me that the other kinds left big holes in the walls. Plus, my pictures are precious, and I don’t want them to fall off, taking most of the wall with them.
So yes – even in the overwhelming enormity of Bunnings, they didn’t have either of the two kinds of anchor I like, trust, and know how to use. I eventually found a salesman to help me, but he seemed not to know what I wanted, let alone which of their dizzying array of products would be best suited to my task.
And so I left, and went to a tiny hardware store, the kind run by a guy who’s been there for decades and knows every single item he has in stock. The kind, in fact, that has been nearly obliterated by the Bunnings behemoth. The whole transaction took me less than ninety seconds, and then I went home and started hanging pictures.
I’m sure I’ll return to Bunnings again someday, ideally with a relative who can help me navigate around those foreign, frightening parts. And only after I’ve tried a small, local hardware store run by somebody who’s used and thoroughly understands the products they’re selling.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure that if you know what you’re doing, Bunnings is brilliant, and you can go to the exact right section with the kind of informed, clinical precision I display when visiting computer shops. I’ve just found that in order to use a giant DIY store, you genuinely need to know how to do it yourself.