Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reciprocating Receipts

I am sitting here in the car cleaning out my pocketbook for what seems to be the umpteenth time.  I'm finding crumpled up bills, among crumpled up receipts, mixed in with expired coupons, frequent film-goer cards, and business cards of that person I meant to email. Less than two months ago, my friend Linda went through this pocketbook mess doing the same thing.  I feel guilty because the mess is my fault.  Along with the receipts galore are paperclips, rubber bands, cough drops, restaurant mints and cellophane-wrapped toothpicks — all things — I might need one day things that I cannot just throw away because throwing away ANYTHING would make my father turn over in his grave.  

The other day on the kitchen counter by the microwave (another great dumping ground that is forever piling up and forever needing to be cleaned off) I saw this small curlicue of silver and gold ribbon that had come off a package.  I looked at it and thought, ”Why am I saving that ridiculously little piece of ribbon?  THROW IT AWAY.” And so I did.  But last night, I was wrapping a double-pack of Degree “Black Dress” deodorant as a gift to my friend Susan. (OK I know it sounds crazy, but in Manhattan that deodorant costs $7.85 for 2.5 oz and this was the exact same thing but TWO of them for $5.50 in my local Big Lots!) it was tricky to wrap and that ribbon would have been the perfect thing to tie at the top — as soon as I’d pushed myself to throw out that ribbon, within the week I needed it.

This reinforces my absolute abhorrence to throw away anything.  Growing up in a “depression-mentality” family it’s hard enough, but whenever I do get rid of something, inevitably I need it.

Years ago while in California I treated myself to a bracelet made out of typewriter keys. It was fabulous and quirky and even had a “back space” key which was darling as I am old enough to know what a backspace key was and had even used a typewriter.  A REAL typewriter.  A manual one.  In 8th grade when all the girls had to take Typing while the boys took Industrial Arts.  That was before the age of electric typewriters.  The massive and astonishing IBM Selectric a wonder to behold.  The day I started at Random House and was taken to my cubicle there sat that tan machine — very heavy, very impressive, I thought the future had arrived.  It was SO fast it was so solid! Instead of little arms with a letter on each end there was a metal ball that spun around to imprint the letter you struck.  Every typewriter came with "Courier" but you were allowed to order one extra ball in the typeface of your choice! I'm pretty sure if I choose "Century Schoolbook," but whatever it was, you felt SO cool being able to change the font!

And then, amazingly one day we were told we were all getting NEW electric typewriters. The IBM Selectric 3 with, get ready, a self-correcting key!  This new improvement was going to make life incredibly easy.  IF you made a mistake (which inevitably you did about a hundred times a day) all you had to do was press this special key (with an X if I remember correctly) and it would backspace  and whiteout  your mistaken letter!  When those typewriters arrived, I swear we all sat at our desks and just mis-typed so we could see that correction key in action.
Back to the bracelet…I loved that bracelet and wore it everyday until about a month later when one of the keys fell off.  I was horrified and glad that I heard it and had the key. So I tried super-gluing it that night and it held for awhile and then, unbelievably another key fell off and then another when I wasn't looking so I took the bracelet off and started looking for the receipt because I couldn't remember exactly where I bought that bracelet, what quaint little store in which northern California town, and here I was back on the East Coast .  I was so frustrated and mad at myself because I knew, I KNEW I kept that receipt but where?

After awhile I just gave up and had that wonderful bracelet in a zip-lock snack bag laid to rest in a desk drawer.  Then months ago when I was tackling yet another stack of the papers that seem to accumulate and multiple overnight while I’m sleeping and there, there in the midst of tiny little crumpled receipts  was the missing one Mrs Dalloway’s Literary & GardenArts Bookstore, Berkeley California, $60. I cannot believe I paid $60 for a bracelet in 2006.  Well, not one to be deterred by a mere six years, I wrote Mrs Dalloway’s and sent them my bracelet the fallen keys and a copy of the receipt, told them I’d been looking for that receipt for years and pleaded with them to fix my bracelet and even if they couldn't to return it because I wanted that backspace key. I didn't have much hope but I wanted to believe in the kindness of strangers.

Now that I’m leaving my job of the past 4+ years I've been trying to clean out my files and bookshelves and desk and there in one of the drawers I found the note I’d written to Mrs Dalloway’s; I’d completely forgotten about the bracelet so I called the phone number on the receipt and said I’d sent my bracelet months ago and not heard a thing…and after an apologetic response this flurry of email exchanges took place:

Apologies for not writing back to you immediately upon receipt of your letter with accompanying bracelet which you purchased in 2006. Had you contacted us right away there might have been something we could do. At this point it is very doubtful, but as it happens I am going to see the maker next week (have not seen her in months, in fact), and ask her for a special favor for you. I make no promises, but I will try. The first generation of these bracelets had a lot of problems like this; now she makes them differently and the keys don't fall off.

Stay tuned & Best New Year's Wishes,Marion

A week later:

The maker is going to re-build your bracelet. Stay tuned.

And then two weeks later, in the mail came a small package from “Nancy” with a note saying all was fixed. I am once again in receipt of my bracelet.

You are welcome. Nancy is a dear, and she went out of her way for both of us.  Wear it in good health. Marion 

And I will.  "Back Spacer" and all —  —  — 

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this--both for its resonant "glance into the past" we both shared and for your persistence in following up on a "project" that you cared about--no matter how long it took! It's also a wonderful affirmation of the Kindness of Strangers motif that runs through our lives! Now how can I order one of these bracelets for myself??