Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Until the Wraps Come Off

I bought an old print and wanted to get it framed so I went down to a little framing shop I pass on my way to work. The shop should have been open when I got there. There was a opening hours notice on the door saying they closed at 4pm, and it was only 3pm, but the door was locked.

Then, through the dusty window, I noticed a young woman inside moving boxes around behind a desk, so I knocked. She looked up and slowly came to the door. Can I help you? she said in Norwegian. Do you speak English, I asked? Yes, she said. Would you be able to frame a picture for me? I asked, feeling as if I might be imposing on her.

She invited me inside and we chose some card and a frame. I wanted a frame that would match another picture, so she said she would order it for me. Very good, she said. And your telephone number? It's written on the back of the picture, I said. Okay, I'll ring you when it's ready. Fine, I said, and I left.

After walking a few yards away from the shop, I stopped and said to myself: is this normal? No receipt. No costing. I don't have their address or telephone number. Why there isn't even a name over the window of the shop...

I thought about going back and asking for a receipt, some information about likely cost, but then I decided against it. This was Norway. Everyone is trustworthy. Nobody steals. It would be embarassing to even ask.

Three weeks later, and I had begun to wonder when she was going to call. Each day I passed the shop and it looked dark inside. I thought back and remembered how the woman had asked me if I was in a hurry. What did that mean? Was this going to take two weeks, one month, three months? I had no idea.

Then, the other day I was driving past the shop and I noticed that the windows were covered with brown paper. Immediately I pulled over to the side of the road, did a U-turn, and went back. I parked the car and walked around the shop. There was bric-a-brac piled at the side. On the inside of the windows, brown paper had been stuck, hiding all but the presence of shadows inside. On the window was a hand-written notice: "Vi PUSSER OPP" and below, a telephone number.

Immediately, I feared the worse. What did it mean? Could it possibly mean: We've pissed off? No, surely it couldn't. If that was the case, they wouldn't have left a telephone number. When I got to work, I asked my colleague what the sign meant. Oh, he said, they're just, hmm, what's the word, renovating.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I rang the number. A gruff old voice replied at the other end. "Do you speak English?" I asked. "No." said the gruff old voice. I tried to communicate that I had seen a lady about framing a picture and asked how long it would take, but the message didn't seem to get through.

Now I guess I'll just have to wait until the brown paper comes down. I think it could be a while.

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