The setting: Rossi's, a neighborhood grocery store in North Beach, San Francisco.
With salsa and twix in hand, I went to check out. A middle-aged, very white couple was perusing the film display and then beat me to the register to ask a question.
Holding a box of film aloft, she queried, "Slides?"
The swarthy guy in his late 30s behind the counter looked at her blankly. Hispanic or Italian- he never said enough for me to be able to discern. It didn't matter because I'd never learned the word for slides in Italian and only knew a few phrases in Spanish which were not going to be helpful.
Her husband tried, "Do you have any slides?"
I put the salsa and twix down on the conveyor belt. Scandinavian perhaps? The couple's accent was really hard to place. Other than some difficulty phrasing their thoughts though, their English was very clear. Definitely Northern European, I decided.
The cashier looked at them greatly confused.
I tried to explain but realized repeating the word "slides" was not giving him new information. He just didn't know what slides are.
"It's difficult to explain," the Scandinavian man offered after completely losing the guy with talk about negatives and positives.
"Not print film," I began. "It's like you take the negatives and cut them up," I drew an air square of a slide, "and you project it instead of looking at a print."
"For digital?" he asked.
"Noooo." Wrong direction entirely. Think 60's and your parents' pictures, I thought to myself. I tried again, "You take a regular camera and then..."
The Scandinavian husband interjected, "I think this is all he has."
The guy behind the counter nodded. It was a pretty safe bet that whatever he had was already on display.
I bought my twix and salsa, stepped outside, looked up the street and then walked back in. The couple were considering a box of film. "The drugstore around the corner might have slide film," I suggested. They followed me out.
"It's an old technique, but a nice technique," he commented.
"Yes, it is," I agreed.
I responded in kind as they turned the corner, and I started across the intersection.
Ciao? Now I really have no idea where the couple was from. I'm also left musing the fact there are people older than I am who have no idea what slides are. The cashier didn't seem to understand what negatives are either.
O Fates, weave a camera into the tapestry of this man's life, a camera that takes film... at least once.
One year ago at TTaT: Inarticulate much?
tags: slides, language, communication