Paul Greenberg

Years ago I used to make a point of visiting a little shop that specialized in repairing small electrical appliances. It was located on Main Street in a small Southern town, and was run - well, tended - by two elderly sisters who could have stepped out of a short story by Eudora Welty or Flannery O'Connor. It was that kind of town: a Southern Gothic place full of types and anecdotes you seldom find any more, even in these storied latitudes.

The repair shop was crammed from floor to ceiling with assorted radios, clocks, electric irons and other gadgets in various states of disrepair. The place could have served as a museum of mid-20th century household appliances, some of which were so old their purpose wasn't easy to recall.

Needing an excuse to visit the shop, I might bring in some antiquated appliance to be fixed, not sure whether I would ever see it again - for things had a way of disappearing among all the shop's mechanical, electrical or just hand-powered detritus. It was as if they melted into another dimension, namely the past. But that scarcely mattered. If the ladies couldn't locate your radio or clock or record player (younger readers will need that last item defined), they'd give you somebody else's. You usually came out with something better than whatever you'd brought in, which only added to the satisfactions of the visit.

The little shop wasn't exactly a model of efficiency, but whatever it lacked in speed or organization, it more than made up for in charm. In those cramped precincts, time slowed to a leisurely pace, and the South I'd known as a child still lived and loitered.

My favorite moment in the shop - there were many to choose from - came one day in what must have been some time in 1980s, known as the Roaring Eighties elsewhere in the country. I'd dropped by to pick up some useless artifact I'd left there months before. While waiting for it not to be found, I picked up an old electric iron on one of the crowded tables, blew off the dust, and looked at the long since faded tag that someone had conscientiously affixed to the cracked handle. All it said was: RUSH!

All of which is by way of long introduction to my own version of that old shop, which consists of a carton of newspaper clippings over in the corner of the office full of yellowing items I've been meaning to comment on for some time but never got around to. Every one of them could have been marked RUSH!

As another year hurtles to its close, conscience compelled me to pick out one clipping in particular, an obituary, for something more than an editorial lick-and-a-promise.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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