How unusual—a recently refinished oak door was the centerpiece of an old storefront. Large shop windows on either side of the door acted as display cases with beautiful books on presentation stands. It was obvious that someone had put considerable thought into how customers would feel as they approached the door. From outside, I could hear a hint of classical music coming from within the shop. I felt an undeniable sense of peace there.
As I reached for the handle, I was surprised to have the door suddenly open. I found myself standing before a man with two of the clearest blue eyes I had ever seen. His pure white wavy hair was unruly but not unkempt. We were the same height but his erect posture and apparent level of fitness gave the impression that he was taller than me.
Although he was older, it was difficult to tell how old he might be. His greeting added to my confusion.
"Please come in. I’ve been expecting you." I had not made an appointment.
It was a clear voice that exuded warmth and confidence. My host wore loose-fitting khaki cargo pants and a light yellow fly-fishing shirt with lots of small pockets and numerous vents. His casual clothes were covered with a black full-length leather apron. On his feet, he wore well-traveled leather sandals that were of considerable age.
Although he must have just come from his workshop, there was no immediate evidence of a work area. I was literally surrounded by books. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were on either side of a comfortable sitting area with two inviting chairs facing each other. Between them was a small antique table centered in front of a classic Franklin stove. On the top of the stove was a copper-clad teapot with a pleasant aroma steaming from the spout. Lying on the table was a plain but finely crafted wooden box. The lid fit seamlessly and I detected a small keyhole that secured what was inside. The box was slightly larger than a cigar box and looked like it was made to be easily portable. Two earthenware mugs bracketed the box that had captured my interest.
Feeling somewhat uncomfortable that I had invaded a private space, I thrust out my father’s book to him, at the same time opening it up wide for him to examine its condition. I rapidly blurted, "Could you fix this broken binding?"
He removed his apron and laid it on the back of the chair on the left. Then he slowly smiled and said, “I think I can help you,” as he took the book and set it carefully on the shelf behind him, “but let’s first introduce ourselves and get to know each other. My name is Harris Tautell.”
I grasped his hand and felt its firm, confident reassurance. He continued, "I am honored to make your acquaintance and look forward to being of assistance in any way I can. Please have a seat." His other hand directed me to the more cushioned chair on the right as he sat down across from me and leaned forward, eagerly awaiting my introduction.
"I'm Dr. Phillip A. Zahn. I'm a dentist."
His eyes seemed to twinkle as he replied, "Are you now? And are you anything else?"
"Well, no," I answered somewhat confused. I thought quickly. I had another degree, in biology, but I certainly didn’t consider myself a biologist by any stretch, and what did this have to do with getting my book fixed?