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apothecary shelf

“Can you match this old paint?” I asked the bearded young man at the hardware store.

“Well, let’s take a look,” he said. He carefully opened the can with a flathead screwdriver.

“Cool, old paint,” he said, as he stared into the can as though he had never seen old paint before. I liked the way he went about making me feel like this can was important.

“Do you know,” he said, “that old paint cans are collectible?”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“Look on eBay.”

I took out my phone and checked. Sure enough, there were some vintage paint cans. “Wow,” I said, “who knew that Ford Taffy Tan Synthetic Enamel vintage paint has a starting bid of $5.50 with 6 bids on it!”

He smiled at me.

“I love eBay,” I told him. “I learn so much looking at vintage objects.”

“What have you been looking at lately?”

“Well…” I paused. He’s so much younger then me, will he know what I’m talking about? What the heck, I decided. What harm could it do to tell him? “I was looking at some apothecary bottles,” I said.

A big smile appeared on his face and his friendly hazel eyes became friendlier.
I knew that we had connected over something, but I didn’t know what.

“I make turned wood apothecary bottles,” he said. “I’m Appalachian, and I guess it’s just in my DNA. I’m self-taught.”

We just stood there, looking at each other in amazement.

What are the odds, I wondered, that I’d ended up looking at apothecary bottles in the first place? Pretty unlikely, I’d say. I was looking at one thing on eBay that led me to another thing that led me to another thing. And what’s the chance that today, in the painting department of a hardware store, I would meet a craftsman of turned wood apothecary bottles?
I looked at the other paint mixers, a man and a woman in their early twenties. Either of them could have been the one who stepped forward to help me instead.

“I’ll show you some pictures of my bottles,” he said and he took out his phone.

“They’re beautiful,” I said. “You must be very proud of your work.”

“I enjoy it,” he said. “Here, I’ll match this paint for you.”

As I waited I could hear the faint sounds of paint mixing, sloshing back and forth in cans on a machine. That’s a comforting sound, I thought. Colors are being created. It’s cool that he knows how to mix them.

As I waited a small line of people formed.

“Here you go,” he said, as he put the quart down.

“Thanks, and good luck with your bottles,” I said.

He smiled at me again and then asked the man behind me, “Sir, what can I help you with?”

I was glad I had brought in the old can. I have to say, this was one of the most interesting connections I had made in a while. Thank goodness for apothecary bottles.