It was meant to be a typical lunch-break errand. You go out. You get it done. You go back. Getting a passport photo should be as easy as that.
Do you remember those little shops where you used to get your film developed and photos printed? Most of them would take passport photos as well. There was one around the corner from where I worked so dropped in to get mine done.
Using a tone of voice that forewarned customers of his care factor, or lack thereof, the young guy behind the counter instructed me to stand against the wall while he got the camera. With my back to the wall, I watched him – his head bowed – as he watched the camera in his hands. He shifted his weight. There was an air of expectancy as we waited for the flash to charge up. Keen to cut off any tension before it arose, I broke the silence by suggesting he try new batteries. But, determined to play the game his way, he didn’t move until he had made that decision for himself. This shop, the size of a walk in robe, was his home ground after all. Finally he determined that the batteries needed changing. I guess he won that round.
He cracked open the flash and tipped out the spent cells. Then he produced a small basket brimming with batteries and dropped the old ones in with the lot. Perhaps they recycle them, I thought with a mixture of surprise and respect. However, the warm fuzzy feeling was short lived because the next thing he did was to fish around in the basket until the batteries were well stirred and draw out four similar batteries. I say similar because I couldn’t tell if they were the original batteries or not.
To be honest, I wasn’t terribly surprised when then flash failed again, even with the batteries replaced. By the third set of batteries, the imminent demise of my patience triggered another advance on his territory. I suggested he breakout a fresh set of batteries from one of the packets on display on the wall. But once more he resisted my approach and decided in his own time how he should handle this matter.
I felt quietly victorious when he reached for a fresh packet of batteries. A rush of adrenaline slowed time as I watched the four brand new batteries drop from his hand like an Olympic diver into the aforementioned battery pool. Again he started to fish around in it before pulling out four randomly selected batteries as if he was determined to ensure fairness in a competition draw. Why should these new batteries receive an unfair advantage? Everyone had to do their time in the basket, like it was some sort of apprenticeship or rite of passage. A couple more draws later he did find some winners and the photo was taken.