This article is from the November 1997 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Tools of the Trade and the Oster

It's not every day that an empty parking space reveals itself within six blocks of Morelia's Monte de Piedad, so we knew some omen was at work when we found a place to park just opposite its north door, where the loan offices usually are packed to gills during the holiday season. Strolling to the west "customer" entrance, we were dumbfounded to find the open three-floor building nearly barren until we read the sign informing us of renovations. The watch department upstairs on the mezzanine bode

insufficient allure to warrant climbing the stairs. Glancing over the limited offerings downstairs, we noticed not less than 758 portable televisions and 197 refrigerators. The only merchandise for sale today was displayed in glass floor-to-chest shelves, and at first glance, it seemed woefully prosaic.

Reflecting back upon the wondrous treasures I'd snared in the past from Monte de Piedad — ancient carved wooden doors which now separate the library from the living room, dining room chairs, a genuine Oriental rug, some garden statuary, and a couple of masks, all charged to American Express — I stopped for my usual thirty-second daydream about the circumstance which might've landed a curiosity on the store's floor. An old comptomer. A Smith-Corona. Power tools were no more intriguing here than at Home Depot, but catching my gaze were an old handsaw, a wrench, and a set of mason's plumb line, tools of the trade transcending more than the need for ready cash. After all, how much money might one expect to borrow by pawning a wrench that might retail, brand new, for $3? The original owner must've hit upon desperate times.

Rounding the corner towards the door, my eye caught something even more startling: a vibrator. Oster, in fact. One of those personal kinds, usually displayed in print ads with some woman rubbing the appliance along her cheekbone. How did the vibrator end up at Monte de Piedad? Did some single mother pawn it to buy Day of the King toys for her children? Had its utility been superseded? Had it been hocked by someone who felt threatened by it? Is there someone in the neighborhood now bereft of his or her vibrator, mourning its loss, knowing that it's now for sale to anyone with the yen for a used vibrator? jjr