I had a funny interaction today that strangely brought some peace in this time of tragedies. My beloved yellow bag has broken so I took it to a shop in Grand Central station. The shops in the basement of Grand Central have been there as long as the station itself which is since time immemorial (at least by American standards). They may have been there before. And apparently, their occupants might have been as well.
A bald Santa Claus emerged from the workshop behind the reception desk of the shop and looked at me dolefully. His eyes widened when he saw the bag splayed out on the counter. He looked at the bag. He looked at me. He sighed. I felt immediately that I had injured it grievously and wished someone would switch off the TV news report on the shooting down of the Malaysian plane.
He picked up the bag and his round, red cheeks blew up as he examined every inch of it (just the strap has broken at one side). He shook his head again and sighed to himself in a language I could not recognize.
“I do not-a have-a this-a colour.”
He examined it more minutely and sighed some more and then banged giant meaty hands on the counter, squaring his stance like a fighter.
“I will-a have-a to reinforce-a with a black.”
“You are-a okay? from the inside-a it will be a black.”
He looked at me closely and then without a word went back into the workshop and came back with two shiny gold things in his hand.
I looked dutifully at the shiny gold things in his hand.
“See-a here. It is not a possible. The rivets are not-a matching.”
The rivets he had in his hand (that would hold the strap to the inside of the back) were exactly the same as the rivets on the un-damaged side except in the strongest sunlight, if you used a magnifying glass, you might suspect that the colour of the metal was one shade off. If you’d been drinking.
He shot me an incredulous look from under trembling white eyebrows.
“You are-a okay?”
He sighed again and extracting an ancient, much used brown paper bag from under the counter, bundled my bag into it and wrote me out a slip on an index card that was not pale yellow by design.
I tried to take it from him but Santa Claus had one shot left.
“It is not-a cheap for you.”
I tried to take the card but he wouldn’t let it go and was scarily strong.
A pause and then in a whisper, “Twenty dollars.”
He gave me one last wounded look and finally let the card go. Bundling the ancient brown paper bag under his arm, he stalked into the workshop without saying bye. The last thing I heard as I left the shop with its bell over the door was CNN saying that the transfer of the bodies by refrigerated trains would be “bittersweet” for the relatives. But it’s nice to know that my bald Santa Claus will continue to try to drum down business, seemingly forever, in the dungeons of Grand Central, whichever tragedy may come and go.