by Lisa

A few days ago, I was an asshole to a stocker at Goodwill.  You might not know me, but I’m not an asshole in real life, if I can avoid being so.  I took a bad day out on a stranger.

The jerkness centered on a typewriter. I stuck a scrap of paper in it to see if everything spun and clicked and tapped as it should.  Typewriters charm me into a strange bliss, and I needed that bliss right then.  It was a blue Royal, not a chip in the powder coat, with ivory accents.  Nice low keys, soft touch, but the ribbon didn’t spin quite right, so I fiddled with it to see if it was worth the ten dollars.  Gently, gently, I tested.

“Ma’am, you’re not allowed to play with merchandise until you have purchased it.”

He was stern.  I demurred, telling him that I was deciding whether or not to purchase.  I smiled at the boy.  He was being good, doing his job.

“Do you understand that other customers will think that  it’s broken if you use it up? Then no one will buy it.”

What?  Use what up?  The ribbon, I asked?

“There are only so many times you can print before the letters get really, like, light, and then no one will buy it.  It won’t work right if you keep playing with it.”  His tone grew more stern.

I love old typewriters.  I adore them.  My dad’s typewriter lives with me, and another that I found in an alley. I know about ribbons and all of that, and I explained that I was just checking the mechanism.  I would replace the ribbon if I bought it, anyway.  Ribbons are replaceable.  They are supposed to be replaced.  The ribbon doesn’t mean shit.  I didn’t say the part about shit.

“I collect old-school typewriters.  I know how they work, and that is a nice one and you are going to mess it up.”

He just crossed my line.  I stood up from the crouch I’d held during the entire finger-wagging–the lovely machine was on a bottom shelf behind old speakers–and got rude.

“I know you have something better to do than stand here and watch me look at a typewriter.  I am making a decision, and you are messing it up.”

I squatted back down to close the lid on the case, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw his feet take a step closer to me.  Closer.

“Can I put my hand close, like this, without touching it?  Can I smell it, or will I use up the hip vintage old-school typewriter scent?  You are being creepy over a typewriter, and I don’t like you at all.”

All of this, I said very quietly, without getting up, without looking at anything but his tennis shoes.  He left, slowly.

The typewriter was really nice, and worked fine except for the ribbon being old and tired. But now, this pair of scoldy black tennis shoes would come to mind every time I looked at it, and I would remember my shitty attitude to the boy who tried to be a good Goodwill employee.  I left empty-handed.

I was an asshole, but I’m kind of not sorry.  I wasn’t playing.  I was enjoying, and thinking about whether of not to lay down ten dear dollars. I was looking for something to smile about with my girl, to use to write important things, personal things that don’t land here.

The next time I see someone being nasty for no apparent reason, I’ll remember the day when I just wanted to be left alone to inspect a cool thing at a thrift store, and understand a little better.