"I hate California with all my guts!" declared Susanne Dickerson, pushing a shopping cart filled with rolls of plastic sheeting out of a Home Depot store in Canoga Park. "I've had it!"
And the plastic sheeting was going to help her escape.
If she and her husband were going to move, they would first have to sell their earthquake-battered house in Woodland Hills. And to sell it, they would have to fix it.
So here was Dickerson, 47, among the hordes Saturday swarming to Home Depots, HomeBase Warehouses, hardware shops, building supply stores and lumberyards--all the fix-it-yourself places.
The plastic was a hot item on this first weekend day since the quake, what with rain a possibility. Also high on shopping lists were water heaters costing $111 to $379, the small flexible pipes that attach to them at $6, 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood, plumbing tape, roofing supplies, 2-by-4s, shovels, brooms and trash barrels.
David Silvers, 73, of Tarzana was fixing it himself so he could stay, not leave.
"I love California--absolutely love it," he said, carting away a 50-gallon water heater. "I've loved it from the minute I first saw it when I spent my first Army furlough here."
He smiled. "It was December of 1942," said the native New Yorker. "It was 85 degrees, and people were \o7 swimming\f7 ."
A contemporary, Mort Hirsch of Northridge, bought another of the hundreds of water heaters that now arrive daily by the truckload. The retailers are barely able to keep up with demand.
"Where else can you go?" he asked. "Move back to Indiana? And let my house float down the river?"
Saturday's quests for rebuilding--both structures and quake-damaged psyches--capped an especially tortuous week for the Home Depot store's assistant manager, Matt Salerno, 25.
Just three days before the earthquake, Salerno had been transferred to Canoga Park, moving from Orlando, Fla., with his wife, Betty, and their two small sons.
"Florida looks beautiful right now," said Salerno, who commutes from Simi Valley. "This quake scared the . . . out of me. My 3-year-old keeps saying: 'I don't like those shakers.' "
Not surprisingly, this Home Depot on Roscoe Boulevard resembled Grand Central Station almost from the moment the doors opened at 7 a.m.
Anticipating a groundswell of first-time do-it-yourselfers, management offered classes in subjects such as installing water heaters, basic electrical repair, repairing stucco block walls, basic plumbing and pipe repair, repairing interior walls--and preparing for an earthquake.
By 9 a.m., the parking lot overflowed and shoppers jammed the aisles inside--with helpful clerks in orange aprons serving as traffic cops--amid a constant cacophony of paging over loudspeakers:
"Will somebody in building materials please call 305?"
"I need a truck driver! Call 204!"
At a coin telephone, a customer needing dimensions tells someone on the other end: "Measure it from the center of the door handle to the edge of the door. It should be about 3 1/4 inches."
Some in management at the Home Depot store and at a HomeBase a few blocks away said they have heard reports of price-gouging by some competitors.
"We've had a run on ($6) flex pipes for water heaters," said Richard Jerkovich, manager of the HomeBase outlet. "And there were scalpers outside yesterday, selling them for $20 apiece."'
Water heaters, too, sold quickly, Jerkovich said. The 55 available at 5 p.m. Friday rapidly diminished: "By 6 o'clock, we had only four left."
Meanwhile at Home Depot, the day's first class--in how to install a water heater--attracted just one pupil. Tracy Stine, 41, of Woodland Hills sat in portable bleachers as Darrin Rolls showed her how to anchor a heater firmly to a wall.
"I came here to learn," said Stine, an escrow officer, "because I can't find any contractors."
Ethel Crown, 60, a HomeBase shopper from Reseda, brought a friend to help her install the water heater she purchased.
"Into each life a little rain must fall," she said philosophically, her friend wheeling the heater onto a pickup truck.
"In Michigan, we lived in fear of tornadoes," she said. "There's no place that is paradise."
Then, climbing into the truck, she waved and smiled and shouted: "If God loves California, tell him not to rock the baby!"