“There is an Ace Hardware at Living World.”
“There’s a big one at Lippo Karawaci.”
“Have you been to Ace?”
When was the last time you’ve been to an Ace Hardware store in the US? I can’t remember when or even where there is one in my neighborhood. I’ve been to Ace once or twice a week since I’ve moved to Indonesia.
It’s like the Target of Indonesia. Only without the fresh popcorn smell. The Dollar Spot. Or pretty much most things you can find at Target–critically, English speakers. At the same time, there are people in red shirts–who greet you with their hand over their hearts. There are household products. There are lots and lots of plastic bins and appliances.
Something that puzzled me when I was at Ace for the first time, were the displays upon displays of odor eliminating products. Automatic time-release sprays, gel crystals, bags that you clip the corner and hang on a hook, traditional aerosols, a cone shaped incense steamer.
The range of products to solve a problem at a popular store should have tipped me to the fact that a real issue was being addressed. Not a concern that was the result of neglected housecleaning or refrigerator maintenance, but something larger.
Seemingly unrelated, but upon reflection, completely related–one of the first phrases we learned in Indonesian lessons was, “bau buruk” = bad smell. We were told that this would be a useful phrase to use with our pembantu or “helper.”
That the tropics are a hot, humid place should come as no surprise. But when your beautiful home has no screens on its doors or windows and not every room is air conditioned and were you to open the doors and windows your house would become the recently foreclosed home drawing the attention of the local mosquito population . . . well, smells tend to accumulate. In cupboards under the sink. Near food left unrefrigerated by a pembantu. But mostly in origins that escape your detection.
Today I wait to find answers to why the pricey free standing air conditioner I just purchased at Ace for the kitchen and had delivered (during Ramadan!!) has a “snowflake” button that won’t work. It’s basically blowing hot air around (like the other device that wasn’t an air conditioner but I purchased under the impression that it was with the help of my pembantu, Atik, who doesn’t care for air conditioning. That air cooler came with an ice pack . . . suspicious, but I’m in a new country. New rules. Right?).
My perspective has been–if I wanted to live in a place with central air that works all the time . . . in every room . . . where there is electricity that never shorts . . . where mosquitos fade away after September (at the latest) . . . where I have miles of counter space . . . where I once threw a gourd off my back deck because I suspected it of smelling rotten and where fresh smells are the norm, not an unattainable ideal—I could have stayed in Michigan!
But then, I would never have discovered the magic of Ace Hardware.