Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Was this the place to buy a used laptop?

Building a trust          “251 Main Street in Kernersville. I don’t work there. I send people to them…” Whoever I was connected to as a result of an ad on Craigslist assured me that I’d find a suitable laptop with the help of the owners of AM Tech. Since I needed to replace a laptop for a friend who works with the area’s homeless, my internet searches led me to North Carolina, at the center of town in Kernersville.

After turning left at the stoplight onto South Main, I parked to walk the few blocks to the used computer store. Along the other side of the street were small but fancy shops that reminded me of ones I’d seen in Duck on Carolina’s coast. Because I didn’t have much time, I avoided the temptation to look inside. Thanks to a beautiful botanical garden and a few fascinating historical homes on my side of the street, I reached the end without noticing house numbers. Standing in front of 303, I wondered how I’d missed 251.

Of course, the answer was simple; it wasn’t there because I should have turned right at the light. In minutes, I returned to my car and drove to AM Tech.

“How can we help you?” asked a kind fortyish woman with an Eastern European accent. Dressed in jeans and what might have passed for a biker tank top, she looked like a modern Cinderella, very short with bright hazel eyes.

When I asked about laptops, she turned my attention to a shelf of them to my right. Her tiny hands danced on switches of a few of them until one turned on. Deftly, she displayed the important details of a number of the machines, explained the differences, discussed their value. I listened carefully; I had lots of choices.

We negotiated what I thought was a fair price for two of the machines. Very carefully, she asked how I wanted to pay.

“I’d like to give you a check,” I said.

She grimaced. “We don’t take checks,” she said, apologetically.

Since I’d anticipated that, I didn’t argue. “Wait until my check clears. Then call me, and I’ll come to get the laptops.”

She seemed to like that idea. And I didn’t mind returning; I wanted to see more of the town. “Where are you from?” I asked as she prepared a receipt for my purchase.

“Czechoslovakia,” she answered as she looked at me as if I probably had no idea where that was.

But I did. I told her about my travels there when it was still in the hands of Russia. “I saw the religious icons alongside the roads. Did you ever see them?”

“No, but my parents did, I’m sure. You know, when the Communists came, they tried to destroy our Christian religion.”

I told her that I’d studied that in college. “How did that affect you?” I asked.

She seemed surprised and pleased that I would ask. Haltingly, she answered. “My grandparents always wanted to take me to church. But my parents worked for the Communist government. They thought it was too risky for them and for me. A little later, I ignored them and I married my husband in the church. I was too young to be afraid then.”

“Do you and your husband go to church here?” I asked.

“Only on Christmas and Thanksgiving,” she told me. She was disheartened by her encounter with her first American minister. “He asked me, first thing, how much money I would give.”

She was furious with the man. “That’s all he was interested in. I told him I wouldn’t give any.”

For an instant, she seemed sad. Then she walked back to her side of the counter. “This is for you,” she said, as she handed me my copy of the receipt. As I folded it to store it in my back pocket, she stacked both laptops and their cords on the table nearest me.

My cell phone rang, so I turned away. It was my brother-in-law, about another transaction, the sale of my mother’s wheelchair van. “If he wants it, I’m going to insist on a cashier’s check,” he told me. He was teasing me because I was trusting enough to usually take a personal check. “Maybe we’ll sell it tomorrow,” he said.

Our conversation ended. I turned to Miriam, the M in AM Tech. I suspected she had to confer with her husband about my check, but he seemed to be missing. “Probably caring for their two young children,” I mused.

“Don’t forget,” she instructed me, as she handed me the laptops, “the big adaptor goes with the smaller machine.” I took them from her.

With saying a word about waiting for my check to clear, she thanked me. I nodded, appreciatively. It seemed that I’d found the right place after all.

                                                B.Koplen 8/7/13


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