25 litres of juice and 238 drawers later, we were back with 160 pairs.
While the story below is entirely true, names and identifying details have been modified to protect the privacy of individuals and Bidules’ exclusive rights.
It’s been ten days since we received a call from the one we will name André. With a kindness and a bold accent that can only come from Eddy Mercks’s beloved Belgium, he introduced himself by saying he discovered us via an interview we did on the radio. Optician since 1963, he explained he would soon close his shop. « Back in the days, sales weren’t something we usually did, you know », he told us. So instead of breaking prices, André stored. Stored a lot. He dropped some names, some dates.
We hung up. Looked like we just got a date.
Thursday, July 25, 8:00 am. Temperatures already hit 26.5 °C. We jump on the car, heading to our exotic destination without really knowing what we are about to discover there. On the road, Ja Rule rhymes, the sun and the prospect of meeting a passionate retiree in the delicious Hainaut area fill us with a thrilling joy.
Uncomfortably packed in our unfashionable shorts, we finally land on that old and quiet street. We park the car 100m from the meeting point to take a breath and try to cope with the heat, far from sight. And we did well, because André and his wife were already waiting for us, hidden behind the curtain.
« I must admit, I already knew how you will look like », confesses our date. André has indeed conscientiously prepared this meeting, asking his children to help him stalking us on the Internet. Creepy, you think? No, the old man was just curious. And we know well how curiosity is needed when you work in the optical industry.
The couple kindly offer us drinks, while taking us on a store tour. The place is still in its original condition, and what a condition. The tiling, the instruments garnishing the 1963 long counter and the advertisements hanging on the walls confort us in the idea we are at the right place.
For the next hours, we are going to open a bunch of drawers, 238 to be exact. And here we go again : that good old naïve feeling shows up, thinking we finally did the discovery of our life, completely forgetting the last and disdaining the next. But for today, for this week, for this month, we are sure it’s the best discovery of our life.
On that note, we accept another glass of juice.
Six hours and 25 litres of juice later, we leave with 160 pairs wisely waiting on the back seat, ready to discover their new home. Did we pay them too much ? Not enough ? Was it a good deal ? Should we go back there ? It’s while the adrenaline drops down that some questions start to rise. But one thing is for sure : it was a precious human meeting, and a gold mine absolutely worth the miles.
Back at the store, we re-open the boxes. Our anxieties are quickly swept by the serotonin delivered while unpacking. In André’s house, it was Madame who bought and put the collections together since 1963. With good taste and sharp eye, obviously. To be honest, in 5 years of digging, it was the first time we encounter such a fussy selection.
It was the hottest day since 1833 in Belgium; record broken.
It was one of the most thrilling digging session in Belgium.
Waiting to broke that one too.
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