The First Visit.
I walk into the tiny shop, casting an appreciative eye over the masses of technical equipment: flash drives piled high in their plastic packaging as if they're much-used and unloved dinner plates, hard drives and external zip drives plonked down in tiny reproductions of either IFC 1 or 2 (it's hard to be sure). Keyboards hang from white wire racks, even the odd Apple Mighty Mouse peeks out from behind stacks of replacement laptop batteries - and then I see a curious configuration of monitors that's either Escher’s most drunken approximation of a straight line or Schrödinger’s particular brand of quantum physics holding up the local Space-Time Continuum.
It is a quaint, reassuringly worked-in kind of computer parts shop, and I'm glad I bothered to stop by. When I were a nipper, the room that had housed Dad’s workbench smelt of used solder and PCBs for large television sets. This place, in a Doctor Ten kind of way, smells of used PC tower casings and that metallic residue of said housings having been opened with a power-assisted screwdriver.
It's Dad’s old workbench, 2.0.
I'm still looking at the piles of flash drives, hypnotised by the thought of instant data transfer running through my head, when a tiny, elderly lady pops up from behind the clutter. Like a magic eye picture, what was once a hoard of spare computer parts turns into a slight woman who's looking at me like I've lost my R2 unit.
“DVDs?” she asks, and I have about half a second to realise: ‘That’s exactly what I wanted.’ I nod at her politely and she heaves a cardboard box of what seems to carry modems aside, to reveal an eclectic assortment of the aforementioned hardware.
I look around the shop, trying to think back: how did she know what I wanted? Was I gazing at what I thought were CDs when she saw me and divined what I was looking for? No - says the other me - I was taking in the organised chaos, I hadn’t even tripped over one item I had looked at for more than it took to realise what it had been. So then I have another half second to think to myself: is she lucky, psychic, or Derron Brown?
I buy the recordable DVDs. I leave the tiny shop. But I won’t forget the old woman.
And it won’t be the last time my money and her bank balance cross paths.