Simple Pleasures: A True Story
Well, here I was, finished with my Pilates Class and my Nature Walk. Since I was already on the north part of town, I decided to drive on over to the Tallahassee Camera Center. Only – I forget — now they call it the Tallahassee Image Center. I needed to find replacement parts for a piece of equipment that I had stowed in the trunk of the car.
It was a cold morning so I was dressed in baggy sweatpants, a sweatshirt and athletic shoes. [I gave a good sniff to make sure my shoes didn’t smell — dogs are allowed on that Nature Trail, you know!] Of course, I had on no makeup and was rather disheveled from two hours of exercise. And wouldn’t you just know it? I had forgotten my hairbrush that day! But, no problem — I just smoothed down the halo of “frizzies” with my hands and some saliva and gathered my hair into a ponytail. [I always think you should be resourceful and try to look as youthful as possible.]
I arrived at the Image Center and grabbed the handle of the equipment case, hauled it into the store, and heaved it onto the top of the counter. The young gal behind the counter blinked a few times at me and then her eyes rested on the case. When I snapped open the case and removed the lid, she held her breath and her eyes opened wide in wonderment and awe, as if I had unveiled a mastodon fossil or the Shroud of Turin.
She was still dazed and astounded, even after I explained that it was only my father’s 1952 Bell & Howell slide projector. I figured she was too young to appreciate such a fine piece of technology. Sure enough, she declared that she had never seen anything like it before! [That filled me with pride when I heard her say that.]
I explained to her that, in the spring, my sisters and I, the Blair sisters, were going to use the projector to go through a thousand or so Blair Family slides. We wanted to make sure that the projector was “running like a top.” So, I asked her to plug it in and test it out. But she vowed and declared that she was not sure how to go about it! Seeing that she lacked confidence, I gave her a chance to figure it out herself. I watched her fiddle and faddle for a few minutes and then I offered to help her. Together, we figured out how to turn on the lamp and the fan. Everything seemed to run fine.
However, the young gal still seemed quiet, shy, and kind of nervous. I remembered how Dad & Mom always liked to chat with folks to help them relax. I thought about how I could make a “connection.” I wanted her to know that we – the Blair Family — were just “plain folks,” so that she would not be so intimidated. After all, not all families think such a heap about passing on heirlooms in pristine condition.
So, I related to her a little slice of our family history: . . . .
. . . In the 1960’s, on the weekends, we four kids gathered around the coffee table in the living room and watched the The Lawrence Welk Show, while Dad & Mom made home-made Chef Boyardee Pizza in the kitchen. We kids hurried through supper, kitchen cleanup, and our baths. We helped Dad set up the slide projector, remove the framed art from one wall, and hang an old sheet on that blank wall. Then, we each grabbed a Nu-Grape Soda and an Eskimo Pie and settled in to watch the show.
For over an hour, Dad projected slides of family vacations, holidays, and special occasions, all in color and larger than life. I tell you, when we saw the 1950’s images of our younger selves [say, on Christmas morning, with our “bed head” and our weird, nerdy eyeglasses] we laughed so hard that we snorted soda out of our noses and drooled and dribbled ice cream onto our clean pajamas.
I confided to the young gal that my siblings and I intended to keep up the family tradition and provide that same kind of entertainment for our children and grandchildren. I mean, why would children need a radio, a record player, or even a TV, when they could have that kind of family fun?
. . . As I related the story, the young gal blinked some more and was rendered speechless. She was evidently mesmerized by my story and maybe a little envious, too. She was obviously a stranger to the simple pleasures of family togetherness. I felt sorry for her.
So, I decided to change the subject and asked: Do you have any replacement parts for the projector? A lamp and a lens, maybe?
That was when I thought I saw her eye twitch. The poor child was slow to respond. You know, I began to wonder if she was dim-witted!
So, I remembered to be kind and patient. I prompted her to look behind the counter. I encouraged her to check the pegs on the wall behind the counter, the shelves, and the storage room, too. [I was kind of surprised that she had not thought of all the places to search.]
Now, do you know, that in that whole fancy store, there were no replacement parts for the “Bell & Howell TDC Headliner 303?” This puzzled me because everybody knows that the Tallahassee Image Center is the oldest and best camera shop in town!
Well, anyway, remembering my manners, I thanked the young gal for her help, as I clicked the lid onto the case. At this point, she snapped out of her stupor. I guess my warm friendliness had finally perked her up a little. In fact, she sprang into action: She raced me to the door, opened it up for me, and heartily wished me “good luck” in finding the parts I needed.
I lugged the projector back to the trunk of my car. I drove away and shook my head in wonderment at a world where you could not buy replacement parts locally for a perfectly good 1952 slide projector. If that isn’t planned obsolescence, I don’t know what is!
~~~Margot Blair Payne