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in a drawerful of little cardboard boxes

I stood there in patient despair. He shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, then moved away from the counter. I saw him puttering about in a drawerful of little cardboard boxes. He removed something from one of them and returned to the counter with the spray magically attached to the faucet. He detached the spray and showed me what he had done. Where there had once been gray plastic there was now gleaming silver. He screwed the spray back on, easy as you please. “Oh,” I crowed, “you’ve done it!” Torn between the triumph of problem-solving and the satisfaction of denial, his mouth twisted up in a grim smile. “Metal,” he said philosophically, tapping the perfectly fitted washer in the faucet. “This,” he picked up the plastic again, “this is a piece of crap. I’ll take two dollars and fifteen cents from you.”

— Vivian Gornick, “On the Street,” in Approaching Eye Level (Beacon Press, 1996) : 3-4

An anecdote about taking a kitchen faucet spray attachment down to the hardware store. The usual trope of the uncertain woman, intimidated by plumbing, hardware stores. Presented here as one of several examples of street theater.
Included in (neglected ) bibliographic notes on hardware stores in literature : language

I walked down Greenwich Avenue, carrying the faucet and the attachment, trying hard to remember exactly what the super had told me to ask for. I didn’t know the language, I wasn’t sure I’d get the words right...

24 April 2022