Tuesday, June 29, 2010

the old man club

So remember the amazing typewriter I got? Well it arrived slightly damaged. And I really do mean slightly. The only thing that doesn't work is the margin adjustment, due to a little banging around during shipping. I decided that I loved the typewriter enough that I needed to do something about it, out of respect for it as an entity, you see. Would you like to go part of your life broken because someone was too cheap to fix you? So I internetted around (yes, I just verbed the word internet. Also verb) and found this little repair shop in Montclair, NJ. The exact description I read went like this:
A-1 Typewriters, (973) 746-8476, 217 Glenridge Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07042. Repairs & Accessories. Recommended by a customer: "I just bought a 'new' Royal Futura 800 manual typewriter (1956) for my birthday. I needed a new ribbon and discovered this shop. The gentleman who runs it is Luis. He obviously loves his craft. It's a walk-up. The shop is small, but well worth a visit. As I was walking in, I ran into another patron with his repaired manual typewriter walking out (a happy customer)."
 I had already called another repair shop a little closer to home and not only did they not return my message,  but whenever I called they weren't open, even in the middle of the day. (Or, if they were open, they didn't answer their phone.) I gave them a few days but then decided that they had lost my business. So I decided to check out this guy Luis. I gave him a call and he answered right away. I explained the situation and he said that I should bring it in for him to take a look. He said there was no charge for a consultation and that his hours were (something like) 8:30 am to 6:30 pm. Pretty great hours for a tiny shop like his! Usually places like this open late and close early, not great hours for someone like me.

I made the drive over and it took me way longer than expected due to traffic (why do I always need to go places the same time everyone else needs to go places?) but eventually I got there. I walked into the little, one-room shop literally at 6:29. I was afraid that it would be closed early or he would tell me to come back another time, but instead he looked at the machine, tested it out and told me a little bit about how it worked (it didn't come with a manual so I was sort of guessing on a lot of things). He explained that the reason the margin adjusters were jammed was because a back piece of the machine had been popped out of place during shipping—a common problem with typewriters ordered off the internet—and that he could fix it for me.

He also told me a lot about his life. I was there from 6:29 until almost 7:30, mostly just listening to Luis tell me stories about his life. He had lots of words of wisdom for me, like "Do what you care about because that is what you'll be good at" and "Age is relative. When you're young everybody seems old. Then you get a little older and some people are young and some people are old. Then you get to be my age and everyone is young. You, you're 23? You're brand-new!" The brand-new comment made me laugh because he had just said that my typewriter was brand-new and it is from the 70s. (Which I guess is only a little over a decade older than I am, so not too far off.)

The shop was small and definitely hot without air conditioning (there was a fan there, but I only know that because I could hear it, not because I could feel it), and I could feel the sweat dripping down by back while I sat there, but I probably could have stayed and listened to his stories for hours. I should have left much earlier because I was already late to meet my friend Erin for dinner (we were supposed to eat sometime after 6, but I didn't get to her house until about 8:15... oops!), but I didn't want to interrupt Luis and his endless stream of storytelling. He would tell a story and then almost get to the end of it but then get distracted and start telling another one, which made it hard to end the conversation.

His stories were really interesting though, all about his childhood in Cuba, working with his dad and brothers in the family business, and his love of art from a very young age. He told me that he learned how to be a good business man from watching his dad and his brothers (mostly learning what not to do from his brothers), and how he didn't let being the boss's son make him feel that he could order other employees around. He was in charge of collecting money from clients and that he always collected less over all than his brothers did. His dad asked him about it one day and Luis replied, "I can't charge more for these things. My heart won't let me." He went on to tell me, "The more money you charge for your business the less money you have in your business." Basically, if you overcharge people they won't come back. But if you charge them a little less than you maybe want to then they will come back again and again. Don't be greedy. That made me feel good about him fixing my typewriter.

He was a really nice old man. And while he promised me two or three times that when I came back to get the typewriter it would be a much quicker pick-up, "No chatting, just in, out." I sort of hope that I get to hear more stories and maybe tell some of my own as well.

1 comment:

pieface said...

I love Luis already. Regular first class guy. I wish I had a type-writer that he could fix for me. And that I lived closer to him so that I could take said type-writer to him. Which, in turn, would mean that I lived closer to you, and we could eat brunch and talk about old man Luis and type writer stuff. Maybe you and Luis could re-locate to Portland? See what you can do about that.