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Friday, October 28, 2011

My Photographic Memory

Any server who is worth his salt is also a good photographer. We have to be because so often, we are called upon to be the one who snaps the photo of the special event that is happening in our section. Great Grandma Betty's 110th birthday? "Waiter, can you take our picture?" Girls' night out and seeing Mama Mia! for the tenth time? "Waiter, can you take our picture?" Finally passed that kidney stone after drinking three five dollar pints at happy hour? "Waiter, can you take our picture?" We do it all the time. Back in the olden days before we had fancy computer machines and horseless carriages, we used to take pictures with something called "film." After the 12, 24 or 36 shots were taken, that roll of film was then carried down to the H.E.B., Kroger's or Walgreen's where that film was "developed." It took about four days unless you wanted to pay extra for next day service or if you were rich you could go to the one-hour photo place at the mall. It wasn't until you picked up your envelope of pictures that you discovered what your photos looked like. It's not like today where you snap a shot and then everyone looks at it right away to give photo approval and then seconds later that photo is on Facebook, Flickr and Manhunt. No, in days of yore we had to wait days on end to see our prized photography and on occasion the store would lose your roll of film.

One time when I was in the fourth grade, my class took a field trip to Port Lavavca, Texas to see a replica of one of Christopher Columbus' boats. I don't recall if it was the Nina, the Pinot Grigio or The Santa Margherita, but it was huge deal in my nine year old life. I used my allowance to buy a roll of 36 exposure film and used the whole roll for one day which was a real extravagance. The next day, my mom took me to Albertson's to drop off the film and four days later, I went to see what my pictures looked like. All the envelopes of developed pictures were alphabetized in a big drawer and customers would go through them to find their envelope and then carry it to the register to pay for it. Mine wasn't there. My little slip of paper confirmed it should be back that day, but it wasn't. I went to the counter where I was told, "Sometimes it comes a day later. Check back tomorrow." The next day, I begged my mom to drive me back to check again. I simply could not wait to see what photographic works of art were awaiting me. Again, it was not there. I went through the whole drawer and it was nowhere to be found. This went on for a week until finally I was told something that crushed my nine year old heart. "Sometimes it gets lost. We'll just refund you another roll of film."

What? How does this happen? I just get another roll of film? But what about the pictures I took of all my friends on the school bus? How will I ever see the Nina, the Pinot Grigio and/or The Santa Margherita again? They didn't understand that I had taken pictures of a once-in-a lifetime trip and it could never be replaced by an empty roll of film. I was heartbroken, I really was. Tears happened and anguish and wailing cries of "Why me?" My mom consoled me with the "sometimes life isn't fair" speech and it was the first time I ever understood that sometimes things just don't turn out right through no fault of our own. It was an eye-opening experience and a gentle nudge into the real world. It seems so trivial now, but then it was a really big life lesson for me. It took me weeks to get over that I would never get to see that picture of Felicia in the galley of the boat or of Machon next to the man dressed like a Christopher Columbus. It really affected me. For weeks and weeks every time we would go to Albertson's I would steal away to the film counter and thumb through all the envelopes just in case my pictures had been found. They never were. Life was not fair. Felicia showed me her pictures and let me have a couple of them but it wasn't the same. I was thankful for the two pictures I had, but I still wanted to see the 36 that I had taken all on my own.

This is what I was thinking about last night when table 16 handed me their cameras and asked me to document the birthday of Mom who was visiting from Florida. I took a picture and handed them the camera so they could all see if they approved. They all liked it. "You're really good," they said. "You should be a professional photographer!"

"Well, I take a lot of pictures. I guess after a while you get really good at it," I joked. I took another picture with someone else's camera. On the screen, I saw a happy mom with her husband, son and daughter-in law. "Say cheese," I said. The photo turned out great. They were all happy and it was perfectly composed and focused. I handed them the camera for approval and again they liked what they saw. So yeah, I took some good pictures last night but I'd give anything in the world to see what the pictures I took in 1977 in Port Lavaca looked like.



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10 comments:

crazycaca said...

You have my sympathy, On Easter 1977 I took pictures of the family dinner and sent them away to be "developed".
Never got them back and was told they were lost...."Oh well" thought I, there is always next Easter! Well next Easter never came. My mom passed away a month later and those were the last pictures ever taken of her...Thank goodness for digital cameras!

Anonymous said...

I worked as a one hour photo technician for a while. Fancy name, easy job. Every now and then, I'd get the occasional "private" photo come through on a roll of film, but it was few and far between.

And then, one day, Lady Luck smiled down on me. A couple of cute guys, frat boy types, came in with a disposable camera. They asked me if anyone would see the photos, and I assured them that the pictures would come out of the machine and go straight into an envelope. That was usually true because after a while, they all look alike, and it really wasn't worth the time it took to go through them. But something about these boys and the way they asked made me look at their photos when they came out.

EVERY SINGLE PICTURE WAS OF PENIS!

Most of them were a different one. Many of them were like someone had pulled out the waistband of their boxers and taken a quick snapshot. A few were actual body shots. One even had a face with it.

Needless to say, copies were made.

This is anonymous, because reading what I just wrote, it seems creepy, but hey, if you are going to asks someone to develop a roll of film full of dick...

Anyway, you know me, so I figured I'd share my story with you here.

Meriah Montgomery said...

You amaze me. So DAMN funny! AND your blogs are so dead on. :)

MarketsNYC said...

So sad! I actually had the opposite happen a few years ago. I found an old role of..what's it called? Oh yes - FILM in a drawer. Had it developed, and lo and behold, it was a black and white photo session from 1985 of my gorgeous best friend in his backyard, looking all collegiate and pensive. What a treat!

I don't take people's pictures anymore. The last time some tourist from Tashkent asked me to take a picture, the camera was actually gooey. So nasty. So now I recognize that look on a tourist's face, gaze off into the distance, and quicken my pace.

Mary A. said...

. . . .and then little Jimmy grabbed the camera and said "Let ME see!". "Be careful Jimmy" said his mom. "Why? I wanna see!" said Jimmy. He grabbed the camera, pushed a few buttons and . . . "Oh No! JIMMY! You deleted all the photos! I TOLD you to be careful!. . .

Sorry. I had to finish the story in my head.

jnana said...

awww this is so sad :(

I used up a whole roll of film on my love-bird when I was a kid. While I was waiting for the film to develop, they died. And then it turns out the film "burned" and the photos were gone forever :(

ChiTown Girl said...

"I don't recall if it was the Nina, the Pinot Grigio or The Santa Margherita..."

Oh my God, Bitchy, you KILL me!!!

In 2002, I took my son, who was 8 at the time, to Italy for 6 weeks. I made the mistake of letting him use my camera bag to carry his tokens to the arcade without first taking the many rolls of film out of it. I'm sure you know where this is going...Yep, all my photos of this once-in-a-lifetime trip with my baby were gone. :( It still makes me sad just thinking about it.

tracy said...

totally rememeber that trip, the pictures would have been of us all wet as it rained that day...

Anonymous said...

I just got home from visiting my Grandma and Grandpa (Grandma has been sick for a long time and weighs 78 pounds...and is at the mercy of irresponsible Grandpa). I learned from Mom on this trip that in the move they made to a retirement home 3 or 4 years ago, Grandpa somehow threw away PRICELESS old photos of Grandma's family when she was little (all 7 brothers and sisters and her Mom and Dad). I LOVED looking through these now-lost pictures with Grandma as a little girl, and I'm SO sad that I'll never see them again, especially cuz she's ailing now! Pictures are so special, and I'm glad you help preserve memories for others :).

diatribesandovations.com said...

Great post! I'm sad to say that this happened to me, too. I recommend that everyone take as many pictures as they can ... document as many memories as time will allow! Take the time to name the digital files in detail or write on the back of printed photos. Why my grandmother passed away, she left behind hundreds of photos of people that no one but her could recognize. I so wish that she had taken the time to describe the pictures that were important enough to her to save.