Friday 17 October 2014

Picking Up Prints

I just picked up some prints from the chemist's - and realised, as I did so, how long it's been since I felt the particular excitement of handling a package of photographs I'd taken but hadn't seen. I guess it's one of those once familiar experiences that is dying out fast. In my case it only happened because we found ourselves in Nice without a camera or a decent mobile phone between us. When I spotted a single disposable camera - probably the only one in town (they're dying out too) - at the till of a minimarket  I snapped it up, and set about using it to create some kind of record of the short holiday.
 I handed the camera in at Boot's two days ago and, as it was Boot's, I knew that picking up the prints was unlikely to be straightforward. For many years this chain chemist seems to have operated a strategy of selecting counter staff for their skills in conversing among themselves, getting hopelessly confused, walking around looking puzzled and wandering off on mysterious errands, rather than for any till-related abilities.
 Two staff were on the photographic desk, each of them, predictably enough, caught up in some fantastically complex customer problem that looked likely to last for much of the afternoon. One of them, however, soon became free - well, freeish; she couldn't actually attend to me until she'd been given a number and punched it in to the till. This task having twice defeated her, her colleague came to her aid, the number was duly punched, and I handed in my collection slip, which was promptly scanned with a bar-code reader. After that, the assistant seemed quite at a loss and stared uncomprehendingly at the slip for some while before turning to the alphabetically arranged ranks of prints behind her. She began in the Ts - which, as my surname begins with an A, didn't seem such a great idea. I directed her attention towards the As, and, when I had explained the situation, she delved among them - with (you're probably ahead of me here) no success.
 Her colleague again came to her aid: the prints, she said, might be in the basket. The basket was in a storeroom behind the scenes, to which access could only be gained by punching a numerical code into a keypad. After several attempts at this, the assistant called for her colleague, who once again went to her aid. 'She's got a problem with numbers, that one,' she sighed good-humouredly. Both of them then disappeared into the storeroom for some while. Much to my surprise, when at length they emerged they had found my prints!
 As always, actually opening the exciting package and seeing the prints was a disappointment. Disposable cameras do have their limitations; indeed, they have little else.  


  1. She might have been numerically challenged, but I think there was more than that. She was of a generation for whom reality is a computer, whether she understands it or not, All else is either error or a "There Be Dragons" unknown. Do you honestly believe your "explaining the situation" helped her?

    The penny dropped for me a few years ago when I had the following exchange in a popular franchise sandwich shop. Imagine cranky old middle-aged me and a clueless young thing trying to deal with a cash/computer that looked like it could launch the space shuttle:

    Me: "I'd like a plain chicken salad sandwich on white, to go, please.

    She: "C-h-i-c-k-e-n s-a-l-a-d (press). Would you like that on white or brown?

    Me (bemused): "White, plain, to go.".

    She: "W-h-i-t-e (press). Plain or toasted? "

    Me (glowering)": "Plain, to go."

    She: "P-l-a-i-n. (press). For here or to go?"

    Me: "TO GO !" (Son leaves in humilation to complain to his mother about what a jerk his father is).

  2. Lord yes, that sounds familiar Peter. They even do it in pubs - you order a drink and instead of fixing you that drink they hammer away at the computerised till for ages, take your money, and only then set about getting that drink. And heaven help you if you ask for something unfashionable like port or sherry or pastis, or even vermouth these days...