Just back from the copy shop. I must like my students this semester if I'm taking time to make copies of two George Saunders pieces five days before the next workshop. Of course I am meeting Mark in Chicago this weekend, and of course I am going to Fire Island tomorrow, just to check on the house and bring things back. I'm about to be running around again. But still.
Anyway I've been going to this copy shop down the street for the last eight years. I don't believe it's changed in eight years. I don't believe the white tile floor's been cleaned in eight years. A very dusty sort of vine hangs there around the front window. There's a smell of coins, ink, copier fluid in the air. A beige metal table in the corner. The expected fluorescent tubes hum overhead. The heat of machines at work, making pffft sounds, in rhythm. Sample binders positioned on the window ledge; I don't think anyone's picked up one to look at in eight years. In the background, 1010 WINS, the all-news, all-the-time station, both soothing and agitating. I don't think an aesthetic notion has ever walked through that door. Actually, revise that: it's all reserved for the business cards, the wedding announcements, the bound manuscript, etc.
It didn't occur to me till today that I always leave the place with a good feeling. I don't ever have that feeling when I go to that major copying chain. You know which one: I walked up to their place on Seventh Avenue at West 24th on Sunday evening only to find all six b/w copiers unplugged, out-of-order signs in the feeder trays. I said aloud, "I fucking hate K----'s," just to see whether anyone would notice. They didn't. The practical and efficient chain is not designed to notice. Not that I exactly blame the underpaid people who work there.
I don't want to reach for a tired, obvious conclusion. All I say is that today, in the copy shop, I stood next to a woman who talked to the clerk about the fact that she never wastes paper. "In Japan, we have no trees, so we don't waste, so we don't have to buy from America." I smiled encouragingly in her direction. She went on. I had to pretend I was hearing impaired, finally, after she started praising herself a little too much for her own good sense. She left. The clerk, a guy about my age with braids close to his scalp, leaned forward on the counter to tell me, in slow, honeyed voice, how much he didn't want to get out of bed this morning, and how amazing it felt to be there, really amazing, under the comforter, with his dog and two cats pushed up against him. I smiled back, confused, not sure where we were going with this. Then one of us looked out the window to comment on the weather. Another worker came out from the back, and said, "is it raining?" "No," I said, "that's snow." "Fucked up weather," he said, smiling my way, in a tone that sounded like he thought it was great.
Outside our building a woman with fastidious face was fastidiously wiping the rear end of her Yorkshire terrier with a Kleenex. The Yorkshire put up with it, a slightly burdened expression around her mouth. Up the stairs, Annie, the theater person who lives on the second floor, practiced a show tune.