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  • Writer's pictureFern

Back in 10 Minutes

You’ve probably seen at least one small, handprinted sign on the door of a retail shoppe in a quaint town, announcing “Back in 10 Minutes.” Familiar to many who staff boutique-like shoppes, the simple sign is a necessity: workers need breaks.

In Woodstock, NY, many of the shoppes are run by the owners, or in an established, decades old business, they is probably one gal or gent in charge most weekdays and maybe an extra person on weekends, especially in the summertime. Thing is, in a seven or eight hour day one needs a break, to use the facilities, grab their lunch out of the back office, or jot across the street to pick up a lunch, a coffee, or a beverage. They have to leave a sign on the door. On a slow, mind-bending day, a quick jaunt to the general store to buy a chocolate covered pretzel or one of those dark chocolate covered marshmallow twisty things might be a total necessity. Sounds like I know what I’m talking about, right?

There are times when no amount of dusting, organizing, merchandising, reading a book, filing the snaggy edge of a fingernail, and walking loops around the small shoppe can make up for four hours of no customers. Like in the winter when nary a soul can be seen walking down Tinker Street. Well, one needs, really, really needs, to go outside. For a breath of air, a stretch of the legs, a wave to the friend in the next shop who’s also going stir crazy. So, the sign, Back in 10 Minutes. Sometimes it’s fifteen. For the most part, they are handwritten notes, not those cardboard clocks that are seen in some places. And some can be artistic, colorful. (it is Woodstock after all) But, have you ever wondered…when did the person leave? With no clock and no indication of what time the sign went on the door, how does the prospective customer know when the 10 minutes are up? Hmmm. Also, a bit of finesse is required when the sign is placed on the door (I know, from personal experience); one must look up and down the sidewalk and make sure the coast is clear. Are there any folks heading this way? If so, you have to wait and see if they pause or walk past. If not, tack up the sign and hotfoot it down the street. Oh, and never, never, look back. Just in case. 

I was reminded of all this on the weekend past as I found myself gallery sitting at my own art exhibit, knowing I’d want to use the facilities at some point. But a friend dropped by to visit and stood watch, so I didn’t get to use the sign. I saved the sign, it brought back so many memories. Especially, my two all-time favorite signs in my own retail history that I got a kick out of taping on the door: “Gone to see Santa” One cannot miss Santa’s arrival on the village green on Christmas Eve. And, "Went to see the Dali Lama” On the occasion of the Dali Lama’s visit to Woodstock.



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