I've no doubt that luck has been on my side with the condition of the typewriters I've found so far. Now that I've passed the early acquisition phase of the collection, I can feel a bit more confident about discriminating between machines I really want, and those that I can just pass by. I'd made a promise to myself that I would stick to getting machines locally, since I've heard too many eBay horror stories to recount, usually around sellers who toss the typewriter in an old shirt box with a whiff of newspaper padding, and then express shock when it shows up looking like it had been gored. All the same, I could not pass up the $5 Smith-Corona Skyriter I spotted at shopgoodwill.com. I fudged my promise, since it was located in Oregon, which borders California, which means it's "local" (so goes my reasoning) and with the Skyriter being a travel machine, I expected shipping to be more reasonable than some of the other machines located in Minnesota or Florida. It was, and I paid less in total that I have for most of those typers I've gotten from my local Goodwill. Factor in gas prices -- nearly $5/gallon here now -- and so how could I say no?
It arrived well-packed and padded, and the carton made no unpleasant rattling sounds. After unwrapping its many layers of bubble wrap, the unmistakable smell of cheap cigarettes rose into the air. Ugh. Aside from the usual dusty/eraser-bit neglect and a top lid that was not fastened on properly, the soundproofing and all soft surfaces reeked of a heavy smoker. California is a very smoker-hostile place, banning it from all public buildings and a certain distance from their entrances. I've forgotten how much I don't notice the smell of cigarettes any more until I travel back to visit my family, and am asked "smoking or non-smoking, hun?"
I'm not going to turn this into a screed against smoking or smokers, but I will say that it's nasty getting that out of a typewriter. Thankfully, Skyriter cases literally slip off, giving full access to the innards and the inside of the case. A few days airing in the garage, careful and generous application of Febreeze and some time in the sun and the Skyriter smells like a typewriter again, not like an ashtray. There's still some amber goo in one corner, which I'm hoping is just a spilled beverage from ages past, and not tar-thickened sputum (apologies if you are eating while reading this.) Goo Gone is barely touching it, but it's not on any mechanisms, so I think we're safe.
Of course now I'm unable to savor the new non-smell of the machine, as the Bay Area is socked in with wildfire smoke from the numerous surrounding fires. It looks to be a bad year for them, and the thickening haze outside and campfire odor everywhere do nothing to convince me that the air will be clear again soon. I hope it does, because I'd like to take this little guy out for a proper typing debut, now that he's kicked the habit.