Say Cheese ! (OS011)

The sculpting idea I blogged about last week didn’t work out and I began to feel a little disillusioned about finding a new career. My mood improved a little when I received an invitation to my cousin Ed’s wedding. I used to play with Ed when young but not by choice. He was the miniscule tyrant who destroyed my sand castles. All my toys were jumped on or thrown around the room and snacks pinched or just prodded. We weren’t alike. As a toddler, I locked him in a room and pushed the key under the door. Unfortunately, my plan for Ed to unlock the door from the inside wasn’t well thought through as Ed was younger than me and did not appreciate the concept of locks and keys. My parents and uncle were not amused at the game but a ladder and broken window latch later, he was tearfully released  from his prison. We didn’t see that much of them after that.

Imagine my surprise to receive the invitation. I’m allergic to social events and invitations are mercifully very rare and the related events something to be endured. Strangely, I do feel obliged to attend knowing that my parents regard family events as compulsory. It was a plus one invitation and since leaving work I didn’t feel that I could approach anyone there. Pam seemed the only option open at this time and so I put this to her word for word. For some reason, she seemed less than impressed abstractly muttering,  ‘Nice to be a last resort.” I could have gone to some length to explain myself but fortunately the moment passed.

“Thank you. I would like to go, unless you find someone else.”

“No, it would take me over a month to become even marginally comfortable with anyone else in such a social situation.”

“Stop talking Oliver. Just tell me where it is? When? Any dress code? Colours to avoid? Suitable wedding present? Travel arrangements? Whose wedding it is? Any social considerations to be aware of?”

I definitely got the impression that Pam had attended a fair share of weddings, whatever a fair share is. Handing Pam the invitation, I could only say “You know as much as me.”

Digging out my wedding gear from the wardrobe, I blotted off the trifle stain I’d forgotten all about and dusted off the shoes. Having put off searching for a wedding present until the last minute, I called in the supermarket, bought a vase, present bag and card.

Finally, the day came and we arrived at the venue. Pam looked brilliant. She had a bit of a panic when she realized the bride’s mother was in the same dress. Mortified, she borrowed some scissors, excused herself and returned ten minutes later without any arms in the dress and with some material round her shoulders. She said “I managed to borrow a pashmina” which I must admit I thought was a small south American mammal.

The wedding seemed to be surprisingly tolerable that is until they played ‘Oops Upside Your Head” and other songs involving compulsory communal choreography. By way of avoiding further embarrassment we spent a lot of time in the photobooth. Pam loved it continuously rummaging through the prop box and plonking a variety of hats on my head, novelty glasses, inflatable guitar, signs with messages for the happy couple and red noses. I’m not great at parties but I could see that most people loved the photobooth. There was even a scuffle over the pink foil wig at one point.

“This is great Oliver. I love photobooths.” said Pam

“It’s just a computer with a DSLR camera attached to it running some greenscreen software. Pretty simple.”

“Oh yes, well you couldn’t make one.”

That was a challenge and within a week I had made one in the shed. Pam was amazed.

“What are you going to do with it?” she asked.

The mad thing is that I’d not thought about using it. I just wanted to show Pam that I could make one.

“We’ve got to advertise and do weddings and birthdays… and anniversaries and Bar Mitzvas and wakes”

“Just a minute Pam, I can’t organize that sort of thing. I couldn’t get people up to use the booth. You saw the couple running the booth. They were really professional.”

“No, but I could.” replied Pam.

I bought a small gazebo, just to hold the green screen and lights. Pam was less than impressed and she got to work “Making it more wedding than MOT garage.” Haven’t a clue what she meant but I could see that the transformation was awesome and couples and guests really liked it.

So that’s how it started. We took the booth to quite a number of events. Pam was in her element, handing out the props, encouraging people to stick photos in the guest book and write embarrassing messages. She also offered to theme it for weddings and event. We did a beach themed one as well as some obscure ones; Cheese wedding (for a dairy farmer) and steam punk (for … well a number of people who chose to accessorize with pressure gauges, goggles and cogs). I had to point out to the farmer that his blue stilton was interfering with the green screen for some reason and one of the steam punk guests had to furl up his mechanical wings when he nearly took out the lights. Not a bad thing though as he had already had an unfortunate incident with a stack of profiteroles.

I kept the booth running, topping it up with paper and ink etc. To be truthful, I preferred to be sat quietly in a corner rather than watching quite inebriated people enjoying themselves, kids running off with various props around the venue and pressing the start button repeatedly. Normally, we printed eighty or ninety photos at an event and always stayed longer that the time were booked for. Pam would have done it free. I wouldn’t do it for double what we were getting but I hadn’t the heart to take this away from Pam.

One wedding had a large number of kids and they were obsessed by the booth. One hundred and twenty, one hundred and thirty prints later and only two hours in! We would have made a loss if this continued so I decided to switch off the computer from time to time, apologizing to the queuing guests with excuses such as, “It’s getting too hot.” One of the parents was watching intently and accosted me

“You switched it off when my kid came for a photo and now he’s crying.”

I explained that they were over using it and that it’s not build for such high usage.

“It says unlimited prints.” he said.

“Well, it won’t be unlimited if it overheats and breaks down, will it?”

I learnt from this interaction, never to use logic with an inebriated parent defending his child. He became physical and I crashed into the photobooth, sending the laptop and camera skating across the dance floor tripping the bride and groom. This caused more aggravation.

“You’ve ruined my daughter’s wedding” shouted the bride’s mother at me. Indeed, her daughter was in tears but really, should she have been on the dancefloor with a lager and blackcurrant anyway? I’m sure that it was cleanable. I read somewhere that white wine would remove stains from material if applied immediately. So, I selflessly threw my wine over the purple stain. It didn’t seem to help much, with the stain or the mood.

The next thing I knew was Pam grabbing me by the arm and pulling me out of the venue’s rear doors back to the car park and off. We never went back for the gear. I apologized to Pam as I knew how much she was enjoying it.

“No matter Oliver. It was good whilst it lasted.”

She took it really well but the inevitable conclusion I had to make was that running a photobooth was neither a risk free or a sustainable career.

… Oliver Sudden  

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