Monday, March 10, 2014

Beneath the Tarnish

This is a short and true story.  It's unfinished.

"$188," the man in the expensive suit told us after conferring with his jeweler.
"Thanks, we'll have to think about it," I replied instinctively.
"We're not even in the same ballpark," my aunt stated more bluntly.
My aunt is honest to a fault, when there is nothing at stake.  It was true that we couldn't consider paying $188 dollars to repair the $25 dollar silver ring that had sat broken, bent, and slightly tarnished in my mother's jewelry box since I was young.  Now it sits broken, bent, and very tarnished in a small envelope as we move on.

I was surprised by the price he quoted.  This jeweler had charged me half that to replace a diamond and its gold setting that had fallen from my grandmother's black onyx ring a year before.  What surprised me more was the reaction of the staff.  The raised eyebrows.  What was I missing?
"I guess it's good we came to a mall with so many jewelers," I told my aunt who looked like she was already giving up.
A few minutes later we were told $214 by the next jeweler.  My aunt didn't bother to tell them her price preferences this time.  It was clear she thought this was not going to make a good birthday present for my mother after all.  I thanked them for their time.  They thanked me for stopping by.  They politely did not suggest I throw the ring away, and stop wasting people's time.
My aunt started discussing alternative birthday presents as she started for the door we came in at.  She assumed we were on the same page at this point.  I didn't argue.  I'd have to try again on my own another day.
On our way out I saw another sign that said jewelry repair, and walked.  After a brief pause my aunt followed, now rolling her eyes.  I described what I wanted to the woman behind the counter, who looked genially interested until she got a good look at the ring.  Her eyes went from the ring, to me, then back to the ring.
"Let's have the jeweler take a look," she said giving me a fake smile, and taking most of my hope.  It finally dawned on me that they weren't merely resistant to returning the ring to its former glory; they didn't believe it had any glory to begin with.
Instead of walking into a back room, she walked around a pillar.  This jeweler took center stage, working right out in the open.  I imagined how hard it must be to do such a delicate job surrounded by the randomness of a mall.
He looked the ring over, studying it.  Then did the same to me.  I don't know what he saw in me, or the ring, but something told me he wanted to see this ring back together too.
"I think... $65," he said over his shoulder to his manager who nearly jumped in surprise.  The man had already made a brief appraisal without comment, and now came closer to look over his shoulder to get a second look at the twisted ring.  I don't know what he whispered to the jeweler, but the jeweler remained calm, and replied aloud, "I think we can do it for $65."  After a short staring contest between the two, the manager lead us to the register with his best fake smile.
"Look, we're not really looking to spend...," my aunt started to say.
It took me a moment to realize she was about to turn the offer down.  What did she think it would cost?  I mentally added her to the list of people who couldn't see the ring beneath the tarnish.
"I'll take it,"  I interrupted, handing him a credit card.
After being rang up, I looked over to see the jeweler had already begin his work.  I watched from a distance, not wanting to distract him by standing over his shoulder.  After about twenty minutes, and one interruption from my aunt who grew impatient, he presented the ring to his the sales clerk.
"Oh wow.  It's Alice in Wonderland," she commented upon seeing the completed ring.

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