Thursday, August 30, 2012

Repost: Walter's Camera Shop

I don't want to say life is hard, because that doesn't really mean anything: "shit happens", "life is hard and then you die", doesn't really come close to describing the feeling of sitting in your car at 9pm crying with your head on the steering wheel so that no one can hear you, not to mention the whole day that led you there, with the driving 17 places and the job you just gave your notice on, and the crap health insurance you need to pay for but can't because you are already in the negative, and the conversation you had with your 13 year old where you are both standing in a hallway leaning your heads against the wall, while she cries and says she hates herself and everything and there is no single thing you can say will magically and instantly change that (in fact everything you do say actually makes it worse). Even saying all that doesn't really get it, in fact it only makes you think: oh shut the fuck up you big baby, waaa waa waaa, you don't have cancer,  you're not in jail or addicted to crack, you haven't watched your child get hit by a car, or taken him, every fucking day, to a burn unit, you don't live in a tent in the mud with 60 other people, or stand in a line a mile long to get a bowl of rice.

Everyone has problems. Just shut UP.

But still.
Life is hard.
Is this thing on?

Walter's camera shop. That's what I wanted to write about. I'm not going to tell you he was some kind of magical person who told me the meaning of life. He did not. That's really a photo of him up above. (I found it on the computer.) He's a big guy, like I said, gruff, with fingers like cigar stubs. He came out from behind the piles of crap holding my camera. But he didn't say anything right away. I started talking.
Should I go get cash, I don't have cash.
I haven't told you how much it is yet.
I know but--
I have to tell you what is wrong.

I took a deep breath.
He took a deep breath.

He explained it to me. The whole problem. He showed me the part, the size of an eyelash, that was damaged; explained how he tried working it with a different lens; told me how Nikon was going under, like Kodak did. He told me why. We talked about different photographers and the ones he liked and the ones who were just so-so. There was nothing he didn't know about cameras or photography.
Where are you from? I asked him.
Um. ( I was afraid. I was thinking Middle East but worried that if I guessed wrong, that I might offend him and he'd choke me out in 3 seconds) Israel?
He shook his head.
Give me a hint.
It is old place.
I laughed, Well that sure narrows it down.
Come on, you're smart.
(Now I was really intimidated) I give up.
I was just about to say that!
He told me about Egypt. He said he knew everything about his country including the exact day that Anwar Sadat would be assassinated. He said he went to Las Vegas the day before to place a bet on it but no one would let him. "They thought I was crazy."
Makes sense.
"So I bet my friend a bottle of whiskey (he pronounced it whisk) and the next morning he calls me on the phone and says, I have your whisk."
We talked about Egypt, about the food, the people, the architecture and then worked our way back to my camera.
How much?
You know, I think I may still be covered by the warranty.
He shrugged, that's good. What you need to do is write a letter. You can't be nice. You have to demand that they fix it. He told me the exact wording and went over it twice. We shook hands and I told him my name. He said I'm glad I met you. This made my week!
Mine too! I'll come back to tell you how it turned out.
I turned to walk out the door which he had to buzz to let me out. He looked at me and said: Write that letter. Demand! And Don't Be Sweet like you are.
I smiled and walked out, wondering if someone, 50 years ago standing in front of the Pyramids, had ever said that to him.

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