Like all husbands – especially husbands of 63 years with wives named Norma – Richard Denton had to be all but dragged into The Recycled Closet.
Norma wanted to browse at the shop – which features gently used and almost new stuff from clothes to furniture – tucked into a strip mall on Rock Hill’s India Hook Road.
“But you are married 63 years, you know how to say, ‘Yes, Dear,’ ” said Denton, 85. “But I sure didn’t want to go. Figured there was nothing in here for me.”
Inside, though, Benton came face-to-face with owner Lori Benson. Benson could make a mother-in-law smile, she is so nice.
“Siddown in the husband chair,” she told Denton. “Take a load off. Look around. You find anything you like, just holler.”
A “husband chair” is the place in so many stores where the frowns of men last for years. Men – who complain about anything and especially women spending money while shopping for hours – sit down and complain either silently or in mumbles.
Husbands never mention blowing money on coffee and beer, lottery tickets and ball games and cigars as he complains, though.
But not Richard Denton.
Benson smiled as she and her younger daughter, Claire, made chit-chat with Denton, and in no time at all he had made a friend.
“This store is all about talking to people, making friends,” Benson said.
Benson can talk to people all day long. She will talk about anything, anywhere, at any time.
As Denton sat in the chair for grumbling husbands, his eyes wandered to two portable typewriters. One a Royal, the other a Smith-Corona. He was a typist for the railroad 60-plus years ago. He’s an amateur writer and poet.
And because he is a husband, he is what is graciously called frugal. What wives and kids might call cheap.
The price tag on the Royal typewriter read $100. Benson eventually agreed to accept $20, and even ordered a ribbon for it from eBay. Denton pulled out his wallet and paid with cash. Benson offered to pay for the ribbon, but Denton wouldn’t hear of it.
Denton was so enamored by the service and grace of Benson and her family that he decided to write a poem for her on the Royal, after the ribbon came in a couple of days later. He returned to The Recycled Closet and talked with Benson, interviewed her.
“I just wanted to show in my own way what a good person I thought she was,” Denton said.
So he banged out the poem on that old typewriter with the new ribbon – complete with “choose” spelled with a “z” instead of an “s,” because the poet wanted it that way for effect, and the word “courtesy” misspelled, because Denton believes that the way you first type it out is the way it is supposed to be.
The poem is a rollicking affair about customer service and how your wife will call you “honey” if a husband goes there, and so much more. It is filled with praise and chuckles.
It even rhymes.
Denton delivered the poem, and Benson’s daughter, Megan, read it aloud. The poem was framed and placed on a stand for all to read and enjoy.
“What I got was an $80 poem, if you look at what the original price was against what I was paid for the typewriter,” Benson said. “But what he gave me, this poem, came from his heart. The poem can’t be measured by dollars. It is far more valuable. I am the one who received the bargain.”
What Lori Benson and Richard Denton found, over a husband chair and a $20 typewriter that went out of style with Nixon, is friendship.
“Whoever thought I would meet such a nice family of people, make a friend, because of sitting my rear end in a husband chair?” Denton asked.
His rear end, however, will be the last one to sit in that particular husband chair.
Benson told the story of Denton and the typewriter and the poem so many times, that a customer bought that husband chair and lugged it right home for her husband to sit in.
But the newfound friendship, and the poem, remain.