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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