You know those automatic photo booths that spew out passport-type photos? Has anyone managed to get a photo they're happy with from them? And is the whole experience of using one frazzle-free?
At the first supermarket a fraught mother with a child in a buggy was standing by the machine, yelling at the sales person. It had taken her money. Where was her photo? The assistant explained that her money would be refunded.
'But that's no help,' the young woman yelled (she had to yell to make herself heard above the first noisy wail of her child). 'I need a passport photo.' She glared at the machine. 'I've come all the way here especially to get one.'
'I'm sorry. I'll put up an 'Out of Order' notice and phone for a service engineer.'
'When will he come?'
'I don't know. Probably some time within the next few days.'
'A fat lot of good that is!'
'We'll refund your money.'
'But I need a photo now. What are you going to do about it?'
I felt sorry for the assistant. After all, it wasn't her fault.
'I'm sorry but there's nothing else I can do. I can't fix the machine.'
'But I need a photo.' The woman looked ready to stamp her feet and compete with her child in a temper tantrum. 'Now!'.
'Now!' squealed the child in the same irate tone as her mother.
I decided to leave.
Another supermarket. Another machine. The first person in the queue, a pretty teenager, looked pleased with herself as she slipped her photos into her bag. I'm old enough to remember when the photos took about six minutes or more to arrive and ages to dry. Nowadays they arrive in seconds and are dry immediately. Well, that's some progress. My turn now.
I rotated the seat to adjust the height, but no matter how much I swivelled, it remained too low. I don't know why. It's not as if I'm a particularly small person. Not to worry. If I sat up straight and craned my neck a bit I could manage. My four pounds clunked down the slot. 'Take care to make sure your head is inside the oval frame,' a robotic voice warned me. 'Look straight ahead. Keep still. Do not smile. Keep your lips together. I repeat, do NOT smile'. I do as I am told. Here we go. Nothing happened, except some funny whirring noises. I waited. Has it done? Yes, I think so. 'If you are happy with your photo, press the green button.' I peered at the image to check my head was inside the oval. The rest I wasn't bothered about. It would do.
I stepped outside the booth, and almost immediately my four identical photos dropped out of the slot. OMG! How had I missed what I would look like before pressing that green button? It wasn't just that my non-smile made me look a miserable sod, I could have lived with that. But one eye was half-open, the other almost closed. I looked like I'd dropped down from another planet. To say I looked drunk, dopey and totally gormless would be an understatement.
Ian, who'd been buying a paper, came and stood beside me. 'Let's have a look,' he said.
'I'll have to do it again,' I said.
'Don't talk daft. We can't throw money away. It'll do. Let's have a look.'
I showed him.
He collapsed into a fit of uncontrollable laughter that made his eyes stream.
People were staring at us. I went back inside the booth and hid behind the curtain.
The next set of photos were better (well, believe me, they simply had to be). I look a bit pop-eyed on them because I was taking care to keep my eyes wide open, but at least they're passable.
'I'll shred these as soon as I get home,' I said, staring in dismay at the first lot.
Ian snatched them from my hand. 'No, we can't waste money. I'll use them to make funny greetings cards.'
'Don't you dare. Give them back to me.'
'Now!' I said, sounding like the fraught mother in the first store.
I still haven't got them back.