I was walking down the Nicollet Mall recently, when I was approached by a stocky suburbanite tourist who asked me to take a picture of him and his family with the Mary Tyler Moore statue in front of Macy’s.
I immediately tensed. They had deemed this a Kodak Moment, and they were entrusting it to me. I wanted them to be pleased with my work—maybe even recommend it to some of their fellow suburbanites.
What if I dropped the camera? What if I exposed their film?
No. Too much pressure. That’s exactly why I was taking a walk in the first place—to get away from the pressure of homework.
Still, I was flattered to have been chosen, and he awaited my answer.
“Whatdya say?” he asked jovially. “We coulda had a paintin’ by now.”
So, after having him sign the standard release forms, I cheerfully agreed.
I presumed he had scanned several prospects before deciding I looked not only trustworthy and capable, but also somewhat artistic.
“Thanks for doin’ this,” the man, who introduced himself as Mort, said. “This camera cost a bundle, and we figured you couldn’t outrun us.”
He laughed, and asked if I knew how to work the complicated instrument. I looked down at the various buttons and dials.
“Sure,” I replied, hiding my disposable Fun Cam. (I always carry one when walking in case I need a quick purse-snatching photo.)
He returned to his family, and they began positioning themselves. It was understood that the kids, Margie and Frank, would be in front. But Mort wanted Phyllis and Uncle Sid on either side of him, because he was tallest, while Phyllis felt she, being the only woman, should be in the middle. Reaching an impasse, they abruptly turned to me.
“What do you think?” they asked expectantly.
I didn’t take my responsibility lightly. After determining that Uncle Sid was Phyllis’s brother, and Mort was her husband, I directed that she should be between the two men.
Mort looked at me in hurt betrayal. He had obviously thought I’d take his side, as I’d known him the longest.
“Look, I’m sorry, Mort, but that’s my decision,” I said, lifting the camera to show I meant business.
Sulking, Mort traded places with Phyllis. I then ordered Margie to switch with Frank, as her Pocahontas print puffer jacket was clashing with Mort’s plaid pants. She wasn’t happy about the change, and wouldn’t stop scowling until I promised her a megapretzel from a nearby vendor.
Suddenly, Uncle Sid broke his stance.
“Wait, take one with mine, too!” he shouted, urgently fishing a camera from his fanny pack.
“Nobody’s going to get one if you don’t keep still,” I warned.
Just then, I noticed that Frank had his finger behind Margie’s head, playing the old antennae trick.
“Cut it out, Frank,” I commanded.
“I always do this.”
“Not in my picture, you don’t.”
“Let the kid have some fun,” Mort barked.
I could feel the tension returning. I had a vision, and they weren’t cooperating.
“Why don’t you get someone else to take this thing?” I snapped. “Obviously we have some creative differences here.”
I realized we should have had a consultation first. I knew nothing about these folks—their hopes, their passions, whether they wanted a zoom or panorama. And they knew nothing about me. It was understandable they’d be a little rebellious.
“I didn’t mean that,” I admitted. “I’m only tough because I want what’s best for you.”
Mort looked at the ground, and scuffed his toe in the dirty ice: “It’s our fault, too. Take whatever kind of picture you want.”
At that moment, I became aware of a small crowd that had gathered, politely waiting to pass.
A pleasant woman stepped forward: “Would you like me to take one of all of you?”
I began to decline, when Mort chimed in, “That’d be great! Get over here!” he bellowed, extending a welcoming arm.
“Come on!” Margie pleaded.
“Why not?” I shrugged amiably.
“You can stand right here next to me,” Phyllis coaxed.
Uncle Sid argued that it should be boy-girl-boy-girl. We debated it a few minutes, then struck an agreeable pose.
“Just a sec!” I yelled, searching for my cardboard cam. “Take one with mine, too.”
As the woman snapped the photo, I quickly tossed my beret in the air to mimic Mary.
Well, hey, consider the source. I’m an artist and an actress.
Bye for now.