Keeping Time in Tuna
Across the country, small town Main Street has been decimated by the big hairy ape that is Wal-Mart and Tuna is no different. The old historic buildings that line Main Street, that once teemed with the life blood of the town — the Mom and Pop businesses — now stand as a silent, empty and decaying tribute to capitalism at it’s best, or worst, depending upon your point of view.
One thing I really like about doing business on Main Street in downtown Tuna is that there is no one standing at the entrance of the store handing me a little yellow smiley face sticker if I come in with a bag. We all know what those smiley face stickers mean: We don’t trust you. In Tuna, trust is the currency and a handshake is your receipt.
Awhile back, I had several watches (and by several I mean seven) that needed batteries replaced. What is more absurd than the fact that we have seven dead watches, is that neither Antique Daddy nor I even wear a watch most of the time, yet we feel that we need to have seven in working order in case there were to be some sort of wrist watch emergency.
When I took my comatose watch collection to a local jeweler in the metroplex to have the batteries replaced, I was astonished by the degree to which they could over-promise and under-deliver a simple service. After several attempts and as many phone calls to get the jewelers to perform the requested service, I tired of their excuses. I finally retrieved the dead and dying watches and brought them home where they would be more comfortable and I could mourn them privately. I happened to mention this to George, my father-in-law, and he suggested that I bring them up to Tuna to the Main Street jeweler, whom he described as a “good ole’ Baptist boy.” So that’s what I did.
When I walked into the Tuna Credit Jewelers, it was like stepping back into time 50 years. The hardwood floors creaked and dipped where countless feet had worn a path to the front counter over the course of more than 100 years. Behind the counter sat the owner, whose father and his father and his father before him had probably sat in the same cracked green leather chair. Most of the merchandise looked as though it had been there for at least that long.
I told the man that George had sent me. “Oh, George, of course,” he said with almost no inflection. I explained to him that I had some watches that needed to have batteries replaced and I handed them over the counter to him. He peered at me over his bifocals, blinked a couple of times and then said, “Okay.” They say that a lot in Tuna and I like that.
Then he asked me if I would like to wait. It was my turn to blink. I was thinking about the jewelers in the metroplex and how they kept my watches for a week and then another week and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to wait that long. Then I realized he meant wait, like for twenty minutes. I said, no I had to go see Floydine down at the bank and I would come back later. He nodded knowingly and again he said “Okay.” And then I waited for him to write me a receipt for my precious seven watches that I was entrusting to a complete stranger.
We stared at each other for a few awkward seconds like a couple about to kiss for the first time. I stammered nervously and waved my hands in a gesture that made it appear as though I were waxing an invisible car.
“Um, do you think, that maybe, I could have a receipt? For my. Um, you know. Seven. Uh. Watches? If it’s not…. toomuchtrouble.” He looked puzzled. Perhaps because all of a sudden English didn’t seem to be my first language.
He quickly scribbled something on one of those generic pale green reciept pads, tore it off with great precision and handed it to me. I folded it twice and stuffed it into my pocket without even looking at it as a display of trust. I did not want to risk insulting the stranger now in possession of my seven stupid watches.
As I headed down Main Street, I pulled the receipt out of my pocket and looked at it. On it was written “watches” punctuated with a little smiley face. I guess that’s about as official as a handshake and that’s good enough when doing business in Tuna.
Originally published June 2006.