The Conclusion Of The Small Business Saga

Previously, on The Small Business Saga:

You all had some pretty dire suggestions as to the reason that the cobbler kept my boots for three months, putting me off every time I asked after them. “He doesn’t have them,” seemed to be the popular conclusion. Either he’d broken them or given them away / sold them to someone else. Since that hadn’t occurred to me, I approached today, the drop-dead deadline, with some apprehension.

I went in at 1:50.

“Ester!” he said, because he knows me by name. “Five minutes.”

“Five minutes,” I said, in as ominous voice as I could manage, as I backed out again. Five minutes had to be a good sign, right? He had to have my boots on the premises if he could hand them over in five minutes?

I let my pregnant belly lead me down the street to a smoothie shop, where I got a protein shake that’s marketed as health food, tastes like dessert, and costs about what I saved on not going out to lunch. I listened to some more of an episode of “Charlie Manson’s Hollywood.” Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski move into their so-called “dream house,” which is where Tate and her nearly full-term child will later be slaughtered by Manson’s crew.

Shivering from equal parts sugar and history, I made my way back up to the cobbler. 2:00. I went in.

A lady stood at the counter, picking up her boots. She seemed placid and paid her money without complaint; I guessed she hadn’t been kept waiting since early July. What was her secret?

“Ester!” said the cobbler, once the lady was gone. “Two minutes. I just have to finish.”

“I’ll wait,” I said. And I did. I waited and I watched as he did the long-awaited work: stitching, spraying, coating the boots with conditioning oil.

“You okay with mink?” he said.

“Eh,” I said.

“They call it conditioning oil, not mink oil now, because people are not okay with mink.”

“Is it still made of mink oil, though?”

“Who knows?” he said. “It doesn’t say. Even if it did, you cannot trust anything nowadays.”

No kidding.

I sipped my shake. “Eye of the Tiger” played on the radio behind him.

At last, it was done. He handed me my boots. “I’m sorry for delay,” he said. “It was summer, you know? I figured …” He shrugged.

I knew what he meant: other people needed their summer shoes fixed first, so he prioritized those. Then I guess he got in the habit of prioritizing everything else. Occam’s Razor: he had my boots the whole time. It just wasn’t worth his while to fix them.

“I’ll give you a deal on the next ones,” he said. “OK? I promise.”

Canny move, I thought. If he offers me a deal on these, I might never come back. If I know that my next repair job will come at a discount, maybe I’ll return, despite this recent experience.

“Thanks,” I said. I gave him his $20. He gave me my boots in a plastic shopping bag. I left, wondering whether I’d be more of a fool if I did go back or if I didn’t. Behind him, “Eye of the Tiger” faded out, replaced by something meaningless and forgettable.

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