If his name sounds like a character in a book, it’s because he pretty much is.
Johnny Lowe cannot possibly be real.
Johnny is an amalgamation of things. A veteran. An engineer. A digital objector. A painter. But most of all, he is the brilliant genius behind the repairs needed for the complicated, behind-the-scenes glitches associated with the mechanics of laundromatting.
Johnny Lowe lives on a piece of land in Honea Path kept tidier than a military-grade fitted sheet. His pick-up truck is always parked out front, maintained to such clean standards you could get out a fork and knife and take right to it there on the dash.
When the “brain” of my laundry machines goes haywire (the parts that tell the sensors and timers to do the thing they are supposed to do) I take it to Johnny Lowe. I drive the country roads out to his dead-end street and pull up in front of his meticulous yard.
Johnny has a pretty unique system for managing his incoming and outgoing projects. There on the lawn sits a rusted-out oven, born in the 1980-somethings and out of use for at least a decade or two. Most of the time, he isn’t home and instructs me to leave the part in the oven.
Yes, I open the door of this piece of junk and drop off the motherboard of my misbehaving machine and drive away.
Johnny calls me when the part is ready and sure enough, I make my way back down that winding road to the oven and open it to discover the repaired part is just as good as new. It’s better than bread!
Many times I have thought to myself while standing by that oven, is this even real? Johnny’s gift for understanding the magic of machinery borders on mysticism. While I can count on two hands the times I have seen Johnny in person, I know a few things about him.
Johnny worked for Southern Bell starting in 1966 working in encryption. He had tasks and access to the most top secret of information that involved a code word…a code word that gave him the go ahead if you know what I mean.
Johnny served in the National Guard with my father.
Johnny is a painter. He captures scenes of the Lowcountry and landscapes of his own backyard.
Johnny is an archaeological hobbyist. He digs 200-foot holes in Georgia searching for arrowheads and other relics long forgotten.
The man who is able to fix any kind of problem I give him is a collector. Of experiences. Of knowledge for the way things work. Of pieces of the past.
His workshop serves as the ultimate catalogue for just a sliver of what is ultimately held within his seemingly unending brain. There are hundreds of jars, dozens of tools, thousands of parts, and an old phone he could hook up to a telephone pole and make it work anywhere in the United States.
He knows where everything is and precisely what it does.
While everything seems digital in this life we lead… internet and bitcoin, paperless and cloud-based… Johnny is preserving what we touch.
His way sits in direct opposition to the progression of the fast-paced world swirling around him, but it also brings with it a value and appreciation for the things we have without eschewing them for faster/better/cheaper.
Which is why he can fix anything that is broken. He appreciates and finds the possibility in what may seem like a piece of junk to someone else. Like an old, rusted out oven for instance.
We should all be like Johnny Lowe.
Johnny Lowe is real.