My wife Janice, the Hopi in the family, and I, the Pahaana in the family, decided to retire. This meant closing Tsakurshovi, our business of 35 years located on the Hopi Indian Reservation at Second Mesa on the outskirts of Janice’s home village of Songòopavi. We both turned 77 and, although we had a good run, we made the decision that it was time to take this big step while we still had our wits about us and were still physically able to enjoy what we imagine our retirement to be. I mean, really, how hard can it be to have a big sale, close the shop, and retire?
Our business is located 65 miles from the nearest Interstate but we are on a two lane state highway which is a route from the Grand Canyon to Cañon de Chelly National Monument. This small road is used by tourists who eschew navigating by smarty pants phone, are not afraid of maps, and enjoy the road less traveled. However, those folks are seasonal visitors and, in order to survive, we developed a business model of carrying items that are Hopi cultural-specific, since the locals are, well, local and they are here year round. This retirement sale thing is going to be a snap.
Step one was taking the poison social media pill. Janice opened up a Facebook account, immediately had 350 mostly Hopi “friends”, and then one morning announced that we were having a giant “going out of existence” sale and retiring.
Because Janice’s post went out to mostly to Hopis, we had inadvertently triggered the much more efficient and technically advanced Hopi system known as the Moccasin Telegraph! This system is so efficient that if someone says something at one end of the Rez that by the time you get to the other end of the Rez there are, at the very least, four versions of what was said waiting for you there. No one knows how it works but everyone knows that it does and this time it worked for us with a few unintended consequences.
We were having a quiet lunch at our house adjacent to the shop after our morning announcement on Facebook and, when we finished our lunch and opened our door for the hectic four second commute back to work, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight. Holy Cow! There was a line of people stretching from the door of the shop, up the long driveway to the highway, cars pulled off everywhere, and everyone in the line was masked up and social distancing. What’s going on here?
What was going on was that people thought it was like, you know, when there’s a hurricane coming, everyone needs batteries and toilet paper, and the long lines begin to form. Simple panic buying is what it was. People thought we were going to have a big sale and be closed in a couple of days and they didn’t want to miss out.
We went to work, and boy was it work, even though we only allowed two people at a time into the shop. We occasionally took a peek out the window to see if we were making any progress and it seemed like we weren’t.
At one point in the afternoon our card reader just simply melted down, which is a euphemism for one of us, I’m not saying who, pushing the wrong button. We couldn’t get back to the screen for sales. I thought to myself, “This is a blessing in disguise”.
I went outside and informed everyone down the line that our reader had a meltdown, that we could only take cash, and, if they had debit or credit cards, they would have to come back tomorrow when we would have our card reader up and running again. Did they do this? No they did not.
Those with cards drove six miles to the Kykotsmovi Village Store at Third Mesa, got cash from the ATM, and returned to the line.
As we approached closing time, I went out front and told the first eight people to stay in line and told about thirty people behind them that we were exhausted and had to close at five but would reopen at nine the next morning. We finished up the final few customers, locked up the shop, trudged off on our hectic four second commute to the house and collapsed. “We’re too old for this; I’m exhausted,” said one of us. “This can not happen again tomorrow,” said the other.
The next morning Janice returned to her Facebook page and announced that there is no hurricane coming, we have plenty of toilet paper, we’re not going anywhere soon. Our “going out of existence” sale is going to take a while to complete, and we are open, if you’ll please call first and make a time certain appointment. The magic Moccasin Telegraph was triggered, and our sale lived happily ever after!
Joseph Day was raised on the plains of Kansas, but he’s lived for decades on Second Mesa in Arizona’s Hopi Reservation. He and his wife Janice run the Tsakurshovi store on Second Mesa.