I don’t have casual relationships. At least, not with my shoe repair store. It took my a few years to find my current place, and our relationship has been slow and rocky. The first few months were a honeymoon period – I’d bring them shoes and they’d fix them on the spot. They changed my watch band and made me three extra holes in it so that it could fit me. At the high point, they would nod in recognition when I entered the store, and stop what they were doing to wait on me.
Then we went through a rough patch – taps kept falling off my shoes, as they warned me might happen but which I still didn’t appreciate – and I considered giving up on the relationship and starting over someone else. But, after some time apart, and long consideration, I went back. The parts of the relationship I didn’t appreciate – that watches would continue to break and shoes need to be resoled – were not their fault. It wouldn’t be right to give up on something so promising when the failings were no one’s fault. So I went back. Their joy was palpable – smiling, they asked why it had been so long since they’d last seen me. That sealed it. While I’d always liked the gruff men who worked there, I didn’t know that they felt the same. Our feelings mutual, and my expectations managed, our relationship began to thrive.
I’ve been with them ever since. Now, past the highs and lows of our early time together, they continue to surprise me. Last week I brought them my watch to fix, not for the first time. They switched out some parts. They handed the watch to me, and I handed them the money. With a look and a head shake, they waved my money away. Because that’s the kind of relationship we’ve worked hard to establish.