Wednesday, November 17, 2010

White Gloved People.

I am the newest addition to the white gloved family of Ritz Camera, America's premier place for images. This is also my foray into the profit world from the not for profit world - a world seen from the other side of the counter so to speak. Like any other business, this one too clearly grasps the twin concepts of profitability and accountability - something that governments show an extreme anathema for. In fact governments around the world collectively exhibit zero tolerance for any such thing. That said, it is often stated that clothes make a man or a woman. Well here at Ritz, the white glove phenomenon is very reassuring to all or so it seems. It somehow reminds me of the Queen and her white gloves. Metaphorically speaking we never take our gloves off. At most, they are to be hung delicately balanced in the back pocket. White gloves are every where. They are clean, cotton, ironed. I hate the idea of soiling them, but it is essential to the job of keeping things unblemished. No photograph can survive the onslaught of a finger print. While two white gloves on both hands are eerily queenly, the one glove phenomenon is quintessentially Michael Jackson. All we need is some thriller music and we are ready to roll into the moon walk, except for the carpeted floors which render this difficult. While smooth talk is encouraged, protocol prohibits even a stroll on smooth shiny floors. Barring the flooring requirements, the place is in perfect company of some real smooth talkers and walkers aka Andres who know how to go with the flow.

Contrary to self-help gurus, this is the place for transforming mere whims and fancies into real needs different from the 'neads' assessment program. This is also the venue for buyer's remorse to be buried forever, when the You and I take supreme importance. Company changes people and so I have turned from an obdurate personality to a tail of sorts, following people for all kinds of reasons, collecting pearls of wisdom from the veterans at the game. They have a disciple in me, furiously taking note of the art of closing, polishing the gift of the gab; even honing the art of backing away gracefully especially when the recognition kicks in that there will always remain some insurmountable issues that cannot be overcome. I even understand the different personalities of the kiosks, some of which respond to the finger tips while others to the click of the nails. Then there's Nikki the petite one who woks at such terrifying speeds that I get dizzy just looking at her. Unfortunately, the register still escapes me. My mind hears all kinds of sighings from impatient people and sees eyes and heads rolling. I imagine the register reacting to the scenario and flying at me with a vengeance known only to man. Mike the Manager, clearly exasperated with my shortcut methods of greetings, requests Riaz to do something or else. Riaz obliges and leaves clear red ink instructions for me on every phone which eventually help me emerge victorious from my garbled greetings. I now deliver phone greetings like a professional - with my eyes closed!

All shapes and sizes walk in. We smile and welcome them all, even people who are hungry for blood. There are some who are browsing for some solace; children who only want to lie on the glass counters, people who want cameras that are not there, others who get their high from getting a deal, comparing prices, and proving their point, people who desire all and capture nothing. As if to neutralize this, we have our very own Mark and nobody in their right mind dare mess with him. Nonetheless, most who walk in are some of the best of humanity and it does wonders for the soul. I tend to have a soft spot for the senior crowd because they look as bewildered as I do. They sympathize with me and I with them. Like them, I too could do with some of those digital photography courses at Ritz university. The Instructor is just how they should be made. He teaches stuff like I wish they had done in my own Film School. At times, professional basketball players have walked in seeking to capture their glory days on print. As much as I have been thrilled, I have to admit that mere mortals like me could do without such dwarfing experiences. I do however manage to get a signed photograph from Joe Ruklick of Philadelphia Warriors that incidentally also housed the great Wilt Chamberlain. The laboratory expert Dennis teaches me to count in 50s and warns me about an errant photograph that tries to prove its individuality every now and then. He understands those colors like nobody else does and just in case they misbehave, Dennis reserves the power to just turn them black and white. On the other hand, there is the pure joy of seeing colors tumble out in droves from the printers. There are also moments of dexterity when one makes red and blue boxes for packing photographs with memories neatly encapsulated and captured for eternity. This certainly is pure nostalgia for the good old days, which somehow renders beautiful all years down the ages.

Apparently, Ritz/ Wolf can bring you out from a depression by its imaging prowess. One does't have to visit therapists or shrinks. It's all free here from all sides of the counter. They only ask that you understand that it's all about the image(s). In the business world, the company showed how to rise from the dead by sheer tenacity and humility. They did all kinds of things to survive - bought other competitions, declared bankruptcy, went digital, introduced photography courses, hired people, fired people, initiated a new way of thought and generally went nuts about survival and growth. I think it's the perfect time for the organization to take upon itself the onerous task of restoring America's image as well, which has been somewhat damaged by some in the past couple of years. They are after all the image(s) people!

Speed is the order of the day, consequently more neurosis with saved time. Speed kills but not here. The alacrity of affairs puts one's brain to shame. But what is one to do with saved time? Now people have to think of other ingenious ways to while their time. Time in waiting was a big part of time management. So gone are the days of waiting for days on end for films to be developed, and for each negative to be turned into a positive. This is the one hour stunner, this is here, this is now; this is the moment, surely this is Zen. People feel it. I see it in the faces. The place reverberates with it. I am here for such few hours that it feels like a sojourn and so depending on the time, I vary my speed to move from one fragment to another. This is the place to bring torn, crumpled, shattered images to be restored to the pristine ones ingrained in one's brain. This is the world of magic where memories get imprinted on paper or glass to be mounted or laminated. It means everything when you reach home, settle down to open the red or blue box (proudly made in America and not China) with your hot cup of chocolate or tea or coffee and reminisce at leisure. You can finally remove your gloves and rest easy with the thought that you did just fine in life and that it has indeed been a good run.


  1. John Samson:
    Pretty sophisticated joyce. nice going.
    Protracted observation...drawing from everyday life experiences but casting them in an elevated atmosphere.

  2. Vandana Shah:
    Wow Joyce! How you have romanticized this profession. Once again you've turned this simple photofinishing business into something very high tech, professional, exotic, a career to be sought and pursued with fervor. Everday occurrences have taken on new nuances Your account is always so full of life, factual, elightening, well penned and not to mention hilarious:))))

  3. Urmila Samson:
    Wow! Joyce, the words and images are tripping and tumbling...This is your best piece of writing yet. You seem to have grown (and matured) as a writer and as a person since I last read you. At first I thought of picking out all the sentences I particularly liked, but as I read on, there were too many!

  4. Anjali Pal:
    This one is good and quite intresting di.

  5. Neera Pant:
    Great give a new meaning to how one should view their work place..the article really makes even the routine so novel..keep up the writing for us to enjoy and de-stress.

  6. Chhabi Agarwal:
    Such a wealth of experiences ! and well documented too..Aren't you glad you joined ?

  7. Chhabi Agarwal: Here's to that invigorating cup of chai. It's my favourite brew as well..carry on swigging, and churning out more such stuff.