11 hours ago
Monday, March 22, 2010
My Sewing Machine Repair Man: A Tale of a Cranky Old Man
Maybe that is not exactly what he looked like, but it is pretty close. My new sewing machine arrived and I picked it up at the end of last week. Hmmm. "Maybe," I thought, "I should probably take it to get the tension checked and just have it cleaned-up. But where?" Nothing came immediately, so I called my superfriend (let's call her Laurel). She had taken her vintage Necchi to a guy in town a few years back, and she thought he might be able to help. I called to see if I could bring my aqua Janome New Home to his shop. Let's call my sewing machine guy Gramps.
Gramps answers the phone. I relay the story of how I have a vintage machine that I won on ebay that needs to be cleaned up and serviced, and ask if I could bring it by. Now, remember that I am in New England, so think of the stereotypical old Mainer with his thick accent and curmudgeonly ways—now multiply it by two. And, by the way, Gramps is pushing upper seventies. He replies gruffly, "I don't work on those internet machines."
I am stumped. What does that mean? In my stupor I just sit there, he apologizes (as much as a seventy-year-cranky-old-man can) and slams the phone down. Now, I am a bit upset. Or, make that a lot upset. Not only was he kind of mean, I have no idea why he won't work on my machine. Like a good friend, Laurel calls him back. She asks where we might get this vintage machine looked at since he doesn't do "those" machines. Gramps is confused and still cranky. He asks her if it is computerized (perhaps that was the internet in my conversation?), and she tells him that it is from the 1950's. "Well, bring her on by then, and I will take a look."
He has his repair shop tucked in off the side entrance of his house. You walk in the tiny room and there are sewing machines all around you (which are for sale) and tucked in the far back corner is Gramps. He sits behind a folding counter bent over the sewing machine in front of him. Behind him is peg board filled floor to ceiling with a million little bags with different bobbins, machine attachments, needles, and all sorts of other sewing machine notions. He looks us over in his big thick glasses. He was definitely still cranky. I put the Janome on the table.
"Huh." He looks at the machine, "So, you know this is a straight stitch machine." I nod and say that I understand that. A bit louder this time, he says "It only sews straight." I say yes again. As if I don't speak English, he bellows, "No zig-zag!" I nod and he stares at me, and clearly doesn't believe that I understand. He shakes his head as to help me realize what no zig-zag means: Trouble. I tell him that I do have another machine that does do zig-zag stitches. "Oh! OK then!" He sort of smiles, but I don't get too excited. He still hasn't touched the machine.
He asks us what we sew and we talk about the changes in the world of sewing, mostly he talks and we listen. He tells us how he used to run a Singer store in the area, and how things have changed in the business. He shows us his plaque from Singer that names Gramps the "Most Profitable Store Owner" in 1975. He also tells us that was all he received for being most profitable — that plaque. He expected something more in the way of a financial gift, but Singer just gave him that. He was not happy about it, although it is still proudly displayed. The Singer Company, which I didn't know, was sold a year or two later. He said that now he doesn't even know who owns the company or where the machines are made, but getting parts for Singer (or any machine lately) is getting harder and harder. He stated that most of the sewing machines companies were making weren't going to last long, as there are almost no parts for the new ones. And you can forget about bringing Gramps your computerized machine. He won't touch it. We also talked about how I sew clothes, and how it is also getting harder to find good fabrics. I mention online stores and he shakes his head again. No good, according to Gramps. Even though Gramps was super cranky and negative about the whole situation, he still loves the machines. You can tell by the way he talks about it. But then it happens.
"What are ya gonna do with this machine?" he barks. I tell him that I am going to sew straight stitches. He chuckles. I get a real smile. Now he pulls his chair closer to the machine and asks if it works. I had been hoping he would plug it in before we left, since I hadn't had a chance yet. Otherwise I would be paying Gramps to call me and tell me that I had been duped by those "internet people", who he does NOT trust. Before he plugs it in, he tells us to back away just in case. We hold our breath and—it runs. Those "internet people" did not lie this time!
He says he has the Singer he was working on when we came in, but he can have mine done in a couple days. I give him my number and he says he will call me tonight to let me know the diagnosis. I momentarily panic when I realize that I won't be home after seven. But "tonight" means something different to seventy year Gramps than to me. He calls me at 5:30. "Maggie? This is Gramps. I will have her done by 6:00 tonight. And, she is running beautifully!"
I walked out of his shop at 6:30 with my newly shined and oiled Janome New Home. He showed me how to thread her and and showed me the sample stitches he had done. He was so incredibly happy with the quality of the machine, he was like a little kid showing of a new toy, in his cranky-old-new-england-way. He says that the lady must not have known what kind of machine she was giving away for forty dollars, and that I need to take good care of it. I tell him thank you and he grumbles something in the way of a response, and it might have even been a friendly goodbye. But I know that I got under Gramps' skin, because I also walked out with a bag of shiny new bobbins. On the house. Sweet.