Yesterday I went to this old camera repair shop. It looked like one of those stores on a busy city street that has remained exactly the same since 1954 during which time buildings on either side have been demolished and built from the ground up at least twice. The corner diner had changed from a place with a soda fountain and red leather spinning-top stools to a Subway with fluorescent lighting and sandwiches that all taste exactly the like shredded lettuce and mayo, but this little shop persevered. The door was bolted shut and there was a little doorbell rigged onto the frame and had wires running out of it through a crack at the top. A handwritten cardboard sign was taped and re-taped to the inside of the glass that said “Ring Bell. I’m in back”.
So I rang the bell.
The wait was long enough that I had put my face up to the glass with my hands around my eyes when he finally buzzed me in. I took one step into the store and was already at the counter, which was completely covered with camera parts, worn cardboard boxes and an old Life magazine from 1973. A big guy came out from the back, he had to turn sideways to navigate through all the crap. He looked like Henry Kissinger if Kissinger hadn’t been a diplomat or a liar.
Can you fix this?
Let me have.
He took the camera in both hands and I noticed his fingers were only two inches long and as fat around. It looked like someone had taken a machete to them.
I take it in back.
He sidestepped back around the corner. I tried to imagine that the back had a big cleared table with a lamp and a big swivel-arm magnifier, free of dust and clutter but it wasn’t easy. He sold batteries and camera straps but the packaging was faded out and everything behind the counter was covered with a thin layer of grey. There were hand-written signs everywhere that said Cash Only. No checks. No cards. Just cash. I thought about leaving to find an ATM, to save time, but then I realized that this was the sort of place you went to have an exchange that could take an hour or two. And for some reason, that was fine.
to be continued