ten minutes in a picture frame shop

2 June 2009

Yesterday I leave work right after lunch to go to the dentist.  I sort of imply that I am “having dental work” to justify taking the whole afternoon off, even though I am really only having my teeth cleaned.  After forty-five minutes with the hygienist, I take the opportunity to run a bunch of errands, which lands me on the Danforth in a picture framing establishment called “Bobby’s” to get some new passport photos taken. 

The proprietors are a middle-aged East Indian couple, neither of which looks particularly like a Bobby.  Mrs. Bobby is serving a customer, and Mr. Bobby is sitting in a folding chair reclined against the wall.  When I tell him I’m there to have passport photos taken, he indicates that I should go wait in the photographing area with a lazy wave in the general direction of the back of the store. 

I go back and wait and eventually Mrs. Bobby comes over, tells me I’m “shiny” and hands me a paper towel.  After blotting and powdering, I sit down opposite the camera.  We have a little chat about the new passport picture rules, and after establishing that I must remain solemn and smile-less, I have to really try hard not to burst out laughing.  I’m not sure if it’s my inherent rebelliousness, taking the mickey out of the NEW RULES, or if it’s just a natural tendency for anyone to smile when they’re told not to.  In fact I used to do it to little kids all the time to get them out of a sulk:  “Now don’t you smile!  No smiling allowed!”  And it always worked.  (Especially with the super smiley Elaine.  But then, even Mr. Bobby could make her smile.)

Over the course of the next five minutes, Mrs. Bobby takes my solemn picture; comments on the bandage indicating the blood test I’d had just prior; talks about her long days which end with her doing all the cooking and house work (not hard to imagine given Mr. Bobby who has barely moved a muscle since I arrived); asks me if I’m interested in any of the books from the array she’s got spread out on the table before her, on topics ranging from health food to the Bhagavad Gita (which kind of does interest me ever since hearing about it on a wonderful radio documentary a few years ago); tries to convince me to become a vegan (armed with evidence from one of those books); and makes me promise to attend the Festival of India taking place on Centre Island this summer.

“For you, no taxes!” she says, and takes my ten dollars for the pictures. 

On the way out, she shows me the available picture frame samples.  “Look at this wood,” she says, stroking the underside of a frame with love, “not from China, but from Italy!”  I’m kind of wondering whether we might have more wood to make frames in Canada than Italy might, but I promise to come back when I have any picture framing needs.

And I will.  Because these are the kinds of little shops that make it so wonderful to live in the neighbourhoods of Toronto.  And when you’re mind is boggled by talk of million dollar bailouts and billion dollar deficits, it’s pretty easy to feel good about directing your few dollars to the “mom and pop” establishments down the street and feel like you really have helped a little.

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