Tooling around this store was love at first sight

Hooters, any auto parts store and the liquor store are places where I feel like I don’t belong even before I walk through the door. I tend to get in and out as quickly as possible. Just give me my party pack of hot wings or my gallon of “the blue windshield stuff” or my half-dozen airplane bottles of Grand Marnier for the Christmas stockings and let me go. Please.

It’s not that I’m made to feel unwelcome. It’s just that I always feel like I’m intruding on male turf, as unenlightened as that may sound.

But all of that has changed now that I have met, and fallen in passionate love with, Harbor Freight Tools. Yes, you read that right. A giant tool store whose motto is “quality tools at ridiculously low prices.”

I had never been into HFT before and felt the familiar “man store” anxiety as I sat in the parking lot. Men were going inside. Lots of them. They came in overalls and board shorts, young and old, drawn like a hexagon screw to a 6-inch magnetic parts holder ($6.99 value and free with super coupon and any purchase).

I found myself at HFT because I was looking for new wheels for Duh Hubby’s ping pong table and the interweb told me to come here.

It was in a part of town I don’t know much about. The whole thing felt a little dangerous and invigorating. When your biggest excitement of the week has been changing out the baking soda fridge filter, this is heady stuff.

I half expected to open the door and have everyone go silent and turn to stare like in the old Westerns when the mysterious stranger shows up in the saloon and even the piano player freezes.

I opened the door and, well, nothing. I even saw a few other women. One was buying a reciprocating saw, which I am not sure but I believe does something nice for you after you do something nice for it.

The aisle signage was a thing of beauty but rather than take the time to read it, I walked over to a store employee who patiently followed my rambling half-verbal, half drawn-in-the-air description of what I needed. Then he said: “All my wheels are on the back wall.” I loved the territorial way he said it. All my wheels.

I realized that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship when I laid eyes on her: a five-drawer rolling tool cart with 704-pound capacity, fire engine red, for $169. Perfect for garage or, for the out-of-the-box thinker, kitchen. Since I don’t have a garage. Shiny, red, filled with organizational possibilities to make this Virgo swoon.

I left that day with a sponge that removes bug goo from your car, wheels, Gorilla Glue and an odd desire for a 3-ton heavy duty steel floor jack and a $12 hearing aid.

I can’t quit you, Harbor Freight Tools. You big lug.