The Photo Booth
The Photo Booth appeared in the mall one day.
Nobody could remember when or how it got there.
I pulled back the green curtains and stepped inside.
I sat and spun the seat to get the right height.
Once my eyes were level with the guidelines I was ready to go.
I closed the curtain for some privacy, sat there and practised my smile, turning my head a little to the left and then a little to the right.
I looked for some coins but noticed the absence of a slot to put them in.
Confused, I pulled back the curtains again and stepped outside.
It was just an ordinary Photo Booth with all the usual choices.
Four passport photos or one larger portrait.
Printed in seconds.
Uses the latest digital technology.
Just place your card near the screen and our friendly assistant will guide you while your payment is processed.
I took my card from my wallet and stepped back inside.
I made sure, once again, that I was at the right height, grinned and grimaced, then placed my credit card against the screen.
The booth came to life.
“Hello Norman. I hope you’re well this morning. How can I assist you?”
The voice was soft and feminine but sounded synthetic.
I’ve never really got used to speaking to machines. It just feels wrong somehow.
“I’m fine thanks,” I replied, feeling stupid for being polite to a machine. “I need some passport photos.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place.”
I hate that, preprogrammed humour.
I didn’t reply.
“Going on a trip Norman?” The machine inquired.
“Did you know that we are fully licensed by the government and can issue your passport, provide entry visas, and cover all the formalities?”
“No, I didn’t, sorry.”
I bit my lip. I was excusing myself to a goddam machine.
“All that for a very modest supplement.”
“When will they be ready?” I asked.
“Just five minutes. Sir,” the machine added, almost as an afterthought, although they don’t think, do they? “Just give me your destination and we’re ready to go.”
I thought, why not and nodded my head.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity of arranging your travel requirements today, Norman. Please place your right eye near the screen so our advanced retinal scanning can pull all the necessary details from our data.”
I leant forward, and a bright green light slowly scrolled down the screen.
“Please state your destination and reason for travel: business or leisure.”
“Actually, I’m going to Geneva Switzerland on a business trip.
Now I’m chatting with a machine?
“Thank you, Norman. Just sit back and wait a few moments.”
The flash was blinding, and then the booth went dark.
There was a short pause, and the lights came back on.
“Thank you for your patience, Norman. I’m sorry you had to wait today. You can step out of the machine now and take your documents.”
I stepped out and bumped into a woman wearing a rather tacky fancy dress costume, straight out of the eighties, with a big curly bouffant hairdo.
“Excusez-moi, Monsieur,” she said.
I looked around, and the mall wasn’t my mall.
Above the Photo Booth was an illuminated flashing sign.
Centre Commercial de Balexert, Genève
12.15 – 5 Novembre 1987
I rushed back into the booth and slapped the screen with the flat of my hand.
“Norman, there’s been a slight technical problem. We haven’t quite mastered the temporal dimension of travel yet.”
“Take me home!”
“Thank you for your patience, Norman. Your custom is important to us. You are currently 34 in the queue.”
Today’s my500word challenge is to Write 500 words without using the word “that” or “very.” Try to use absolutely no adverbs (hint: “absolutely” is an adverb).