Kindness in service

Sometimes help and kindness comes in the most unlikely places. It is lovely when it does.

This week, I was in Bologna, in Italy, for work. I had a few hours to go before my trip home by train, so I wandered around. I chanced upon a sewing machine shop, rather randomly wondering if they might have a belt for my old Pfaff. I had failed to find one the right size in real shops. Despite repeated emails to various online stores, enthusiastic assurances that each had what I needed, I was inevitably disappointed as yet another wrong one was delivered.

So when I walked in to the shop in Bologna, via Alberto Righi, I was prepared for another disappointment, and more baffled looks. But this time, instead, I found a kind couple in a tiny shop bursting with machines, from very old to very new. All lovingly tinkered with. Although my Italian doesn’t stretch to technical terms for vintage sewing machine parts, Signore Federici knew exactly what I was talking about. Even more impressive, when I spoke of my Pfaff 30, he knew precisely what needed screwing or unscrewing, and how the spinning wheel (?) should be removed if necessary to change the belt. He also had exactly the right-sized belt for me, and another sort to try out just in case, with extra explanations of what to put where if necessary. I bought both. I eventually found some photos of the machine on my iPad, but these were unnecessary. He knew exactly, in his mind, what I was talking about. A lifetime of experience. In a sweet twist, his mother had been a tailor (“una sarta”) in Geneva, Switzerland, sewing clothes for ladies.

When I got home, it took one minute to replace the belt. To my utter delight, the Old Lady is once again sewing beautifully. It is good to have this tireless machine back in shape. She is a true workhorse.

I only wish I had come to Bologna better prepared with a longer shopping list. This lovely man is a fountain of knowledge, and no doubt when he retires will be replaced by yet another fashionable eatery. Now I need anther reason to go back. Long live Signore Federici! It is people like him, and his kind partner, who make Italian cities such special places.

Grazie, Signore Federici, il suo aiuto e la sua cortesia mi da speranza.

Long live old sewing machines, and the kind people who help us love them!

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