the locutorio

The other day I was at the copy place. My copy place. The place I go to copy and print and scan everything, since we don’t have a printer at home. I was hanging out there for a while since I was printing a ton of wedding stuff, and I started to think about how the place is really kind of a relic. I mean, I know we have Kinko’s in the States, and there were plenty of people buzzing in and out of the shop while I waited, since here it’s common for students to copy entire textbooks instead of buying them. But copy places, they’re a dying breed. More and more people have printer/scanner/fax combos at home and as more people become proficient in programs like Photoshop, they don’t need the assitance of the copy guy to create the documents they desire. And sure, we could go to the store any day of the week and buy ourselves a printer, and find a place to put it, and never have to deal with (god forbid) wanting to print something on a Sunday.

But it was comfortable there, watching the guy laminate a bunch of menus for a new bar down the street, and chatting amiably with him about how it was closed for a long time and now there’s a new owner that’s renovated the place. We talked about how business has been good for copy places this month, but last year was just terrible. We talked about how it’s a job that tires easily and doesn’t leave much time for sitting down. And it was comfortable, standing there waiting, watching people come and go from this tiny shop in this tiny corner of the world.
And it reminded me of another relic, the locutorio, the shop where I used to have to go to make international phone calls, back before cell phones and back before Skype and back before international calling plans that were actually afforable. I mean, it wasn’t really that long ago (I used the locutorio up until about 2009) that when I wanted to call my mom from overseas, I had to go down to the corner shop and tell them where I wanted to call, take a place at one of their little phone booths, and make my call there. If I wanted to use the internet, I had to use the public computers at the ciber. Sometimes I had a calling card I could use at the corner payphone, but I remember so many cold, rainy nights, huddling against the meager walls of the cabina, trying to make out what people were saying over all the static on the line.

And I remember how inconvenient it was, not to just be able to pick up the phone and make a call. But I also remember that little bit of community, when the guy at the counter knew me and exactly where I wanted to call, and when I knew the other people that would be hanging out on the computers or phones at the same time as I was. And as I was sitting in the copy shop thinking about all this, I started to get nostalgic. Not for locutorios, really, or for the age where I had to stand outside in driving rain just to reach my family, but for the little corner shops that will soon become nonexistent, and the sense of community that will disappear with them. For now, the copy places exist, but I know they’re an endangered species. So I do my part by making my copies there, and when I go in, it feels a little bit like home.

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