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Treasure hunting

October 18, 2009

People in San Francisco frequently put perfectly good items out on the curb for others to take. They don’t want to bother donating it to a charity, or maybe they’d rather it go directly to people who want it without having to deal with craigslist or freecycle. Whatever the reason, it works out well for me because I have a very good track record of finding useful things on the street. Walks around the city are often like treasure hunts. Just off the top of my head, I know that I’ve gotten shoes, clothing, a flatiron, a pot, fabric, scarves, a stepladder, a clothes-drying rack, and yarn. My latest find, however, tops them all.

Last week while walking to meet a friend after dark I came across an interesting-looking case. Knowing my penchant for street treasures (or street garbage, as he sometimes rudely puts it) my boyfriend Steven at first tried to hurry me along, saying, “It’s a typewriter, but it doesn’t have a key. Let’s go!” “What if,” I replied, “I knew someone who knows how to pick locks?” These turned out to be the magic words. Steven’s enthusiasm suddenly did a 180 as he realized that I was referring to the fact that his co-worker knows how to pick locks and had taught him this skill several months ago. She keeps a set of lock-picking tools on her desk at work. “Will you get her to pick the lock for me?” I asked.  “Okay–it’s a mission,” Steven replied, and he even helped me lug the typewriter home. I couldn’t wait to find out what was inside the case. Would it be a totally fucked-up typewriter that didn’t work? Or maybe one that needed just a few repairs? There was no way to know.

The next day he took it to work with him in the morning and I waited for word on how the mission was progressing. Initially the reports were disappointing. Apparently the lock was of a type that the lock-picker wasn’t familiar with and she needed to do some research. Then it turned out that the lock was actually broken from someone trying to force it with a screwdriver. The lock-picker was enthusiastic and prevailed, however, eventually finding a way around the broken lock by unscrewing the the bottom of the case. Luckily for me, it turns out that a portable typewriter has pretty shoddy security.

My little owl friend came to see what I would find inside the case. I’m guessing the key used to be attached to the little red string.

Pushing the (disabled) lock button. ..

It’s open!

It’s intact–and it even has the manual and cleaning brushes.

It’s a Hermes 3000 and according to,  “For its versatility, performance and durability, the Hermes 3000 is regarded by many to be the one of finest portable typewriters in the world.”

There’s a message!

Hmm, it looks like it used to work. Does it still?

It does!

I oiled it up using this manual, but I think it could use a new ribbon. If I can find one locally I want to buy a red and black ribbon for typing in color.

There’s something funny about the keyboard–can you find it? Leave me a comment if you spot the quirk.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Fly By permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:34 am

    There’s no #1! Awesome find. The street treasure gods were smiling down on you.

  2. October 19, 2009 6:05 pm

    The @ sign seems rather peculiar. I would assume that you could use the l key as a one. Definitely an amazing find!

    • October 20, 2009 12:03 am

      Hmm, I think the @ key is normal, though it shares the key with a cent sign, which is pretty awesome. My answer is that it doesn’t have a number one, which I think is funny. I guess it’s like Randi said, you’re supposed to use the l key.

  3. October 19, 2009 6:10 pm

    Oh. My god! That is beautiful. And now you can say you found Hermes on the street. Hahaha. I’m so glad it’s actually functional as well.

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