Sunday, July 26, 2009

You don't always get what you want, but you might get something better

Pyzahn's Jun 24 post "Unique Perspectives" reminded me of this story from many moons ago.

Soon after I graduated from college and just a couple months before I began my first job as a newspaper reporter, I had the great privilege of spending the month of March in Europe.

I toted around a Minolta SLR that my Uncle Simon had given me and I had it with me when I went to visit the Lourve. I completely exhausted myself roaming the halls of that museum and was thrilled with some of the photographs I was able to snap. I vaguely recall photography was not exactly encouraged.

But the best shot of the entire trip was one I got of a museum guard fast asleep in a pose similar to a reclining sculpture. I just beamed with pride as I went to catch the Metro to get back to the apartment where I was staying.

Unfortunately, in my stupor and distraction, I got off at the wrong stop and realized I was completely lost. I figured I'd better get my bearings by going outside, and on my way, I decided to rewind the roll of 35 mm film I had finished at the Louvre.

ScccccRRRiiiigggggaaaaapppppppp!

The sound was hideous and  horrible and I knew exactly what it meant. Somehow, the film had pulled off the spokes and had completely ripped and jammed in the camera. I found a semi-dark spot and I placed the camera under my big bulky red coat to a try to get it out without exposing it.

Didn't work--and I was devastated. Exhausted, lost, and devastated. I don't exactly have a poker face, so I'm sure I looked like a sad little urchin in a scarlet coat. I slowly climbed the stairs to get outside and sat myself down on a window ledge on a corner and hung my head, nearly in tears.

When I looked up, I was amazed to find that I was directly across the street from a magnificent structure, La Madeleine, a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene.

It was indeed a site for sore eyes and I was taking in the neoclassical beauty, when a finely dressed woman walked by, took one look at me, reached into her purse, and handed me several coins.

I understood a bit of French, and I picked up that she was giving me the money to go by myself a cup of coffee. I tried my best to refuse the handout with "No, no madame" and such, but she insisted and opened my hand and put the coins in and off she went. I must have looked a fright!

I sat there flabbergasted. It was all too much. The long day, the lost film, the lost self, the incredible view of the church, and the kind gesture of a complete stranger.

Eventually, I found my way back to my host home, still gripping those coins in my hand. I set them on the dresser and sat on the bed just staring at them. In the end, I decided that I would save them forever (I'm pretty sure in my 20s I thought I would live forever!) as a remembrance of French generosity toward a complete stranger.

And in the end, they have served as a far better memento than the photo I lost. Besides, who knows, the  photo may have gotten one tired guard in a lot of trouble!

Or ended up in Pyzahn's post!

Oh, and the SLR? Little stinker slipped out of my hands in the Notre Dame Cathedral, crashed on the stone floor, and quit working for the next week. Trouble maker! Now my little point and shoot . . .

Image 1  from Wikipedia 
Image 1 from Wikipedia
Image 3 from Julie70
Image 2 from usmint.gov

20 comments:

jinksy said...

Ah, the joy of SLR's - I once took a whole reel of fantastic Hot Air Balloon shots - only to find the film had never engaged on the little spikes, and came out as pristinely blank as when it went in!

Derrick said...

Hi Kathleen,

TWICE I have taken a whole reel of pics WITHOUT any film in the camera!!! Once in Petra,Jordan and once in Rome. And they were wonderful shots too!! Oh well. I hope Uncle Simon's camera did work when you gave it back?

Award post now up!

ellen abbott said...

It's always the best ones that get lost, right?

Great story.

david mcmahon said...

Yup, been there, done that!

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

How wise of you at a young age to recognize the beauty in the gift rather than the tragedy in the loss!!!

Pyzahn said...

I think I would have been crying. At one time I was so caught up in photography it took away my sense of reason.

For my last less BIG (but still major) b'day, the film I shot had already been exposed. How did that happen? Anyway, I had these hilarious double exposures... my cat up in a tree floating over two of my best friends....my new dining room with a friends hubby on a bar stool in the upper corner. I should scan those and post them, they are too funny.

I think you should make a charm bracelet out of the coins. Fun jewelry and a constant reminder of the generous stranger.

Joanna said...

I just hate it when that happens. Cool that you saved the coins.

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Kathleen,

Bummer that the film was ruined! But you did end up getting something better. And what a sweet and lovely memory those coins hold!

Hugs and blessings!

Renie

Kathleen said...

Jinksy: No more spikes and sprockets. We just have to remember to charge the batteries!

Derrick: You just made me laugh out loud. I'd forgotten about doing that as well! But not in such exotic places!

Ellen: Oh, how true!

David: And it appears like you came through just fine!

Boomer: Thank you. What a lovely comment.

Pyzahn: I have no idea how that can happen. But me thinks it happened for a reason -- to make you laugh! Yes, please please please post them. And I love the idea of the charm bracelet. Thanks!

Joanna: A little tribute to generosity. Don't you think there's more of that quality in the world than meets the eye?

Renie: Oh, yes indeed. What an extraordinary moment, and another reason why travel is such a good thing for our young people, eh?

Rudee said...

I'd say your memory of the events of the day are better than any of the photos would have been.

Brian Miller said...

what a great story. i take it you still have the coins to remind you on those difficult days. nice. congrats on POTD!

Moannie said...

Congratulations on POTD for your great story of the kindness of strangers.

I think we have all done that in the days of sprockets and reels.

Cheffie-Mom said...

What a great and uplifting story! Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

Erin Davis said...

Great story! When Rick and I were in Ireland 19 years ago, he left the camera on top of the car after we had pulled over by the side of the road to take pictures of some gorgeous scenery. As we were taking off, I cried, "The camera!" He slammed on the brakes, and the camera went tumbling onto the pavement, never to function again. To this day, Rick says it was my fault for yelling "The camera!" and for causing him to slam on the brakes. Apparently, leaving the camera on the roof of the car in the first place had nothing to do with it...
No kindness of strangers with coins for us that day, just our own grumpy selves! :0)

TechnoBabe said...

Great comment by Boomer. My sentiments exactly. And to think you have the coins as physical reminders of a stranger's reaching out, paying it forward to you and teaching you to do the same.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Congrats on the post of the day award. Well deserved, I loved this post. So beautifully written.

Willow said...

Congratulations on POTD! And thank you for the reminder that we should all, "Above all, be kind."

introspection said...

Lovely post specially the part about the coins a kind lady left you!
Oh those camera rolls..!! I have the worse/great memories of it. My husband insisted that I always have it ready and loaded. One day when some guests arrived unannounced, he asked me to take pictures (in a hurry)as they were about to leave. I had no choice but to aim and shoot though I knew there was no roll to develop. After a month when hubby wanted to see the pictures, I told him the roll had got exposed by mistake. He was furious but it was better to face this now than in the presence of visitors.
I love my digital now.
Congratulations for winning POTD.

introspection said...

Lovely post specially the part about the coins a kind lady left you!
Oh those camera rolls..!! I have the worse/great memories of it. My husband insisted that I always have it ready and loaded. One day when some guests arrived unannounced, he asked me to take pictures (in a hurry)as they were about to leave. I had no choice but to aim and shoot though I knew there was no roll to develop. After a month when hubby wanted to see the pictures, I told him the roll had got exposed by mistake. He was furious but it was better to face this now than in the presence of visitors.
I love my digital now.
Congratulations for winning POTD.

Sarah Laurence said...

Congratulations on your POTD win! Oh, the pains of flim photography. Digital is far more forgiving, but I still miss the clear images (when they came out) of my old Nikon FE2. I love this tale of cross-cultural empathy that goes beyond language.

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