Thursday, June 21, 2007
Printed in Black & White
After my dinner last night, I finally took the USB thingy to CVS and ordered some digital prints. T-Bone and his friend had taken some photos at Brookside Gardens and he had been asking me to go print them out - my cute little technophobe - for a couple of weeks now. After I excused myself from my new best buds at El Nopalito, I still needed to walk it off so I ducked into the CVS next door and selected my photos. It was a one hour wait so I decided to come back today to pick them up.
Adwoa, the young Ghanaian girl who works behind the counter, was helping another African lady to print out passport pictures for her baby. Adwoa apologized for not being able to help me right away so I said, "Oh no, girl, do your thang! Actually, why don't I help this customer and you can go grab my photos?"
I edited the photo while Adwoa rummaged around behind the counter. She looked everywhere but she couldn't find my photos, so finally she went over to the photo kiosk to see if maybe they had not been printed. Sure enough, they were still in there, but since that store has a decent machine (unlike my old store!) it only takes about five minutes to print them out.
I decided to do a little shopping while I waited. When I came back to the counter, Adwoa was standing there with a clutch of photos in her hand and a puzzled frown on her face. I tried to peek at the photos - sure enough, there was my pookie - but she still seemed like she was searching for something. Finally she glanced up. "Uh, did you have about thirty photos?"
"Mm-hmm, I think so."
"Okay . . . " she glanced down at my photos with a distressed look.
I guessed what the problem was.
"I think those are mine. That's my husband," I offered.
Relief broke across her brow. "OH!" Then, "I didn't want to ask but I was like, who is this? These are not her photos." We laughed. "I was looking through them, trying to find a white person."
"Haha! Yeah, we get that all the time."
"Where is he from?" she asked as she handed the photos to me.
"Oh, he's from Cameroon." I started flipping through the pile.
"Really?! Oh, I didn't know!"
The lady with the passport photo turned to look at me. "Eh-eh!" she said, making the quick rapid-fire sound that is the West African version of "Say what?!" "I'm from Cameroon too!"
"Wow! Where in Cameroon?" I asked, pulling a photo from the stack.
"I'm from Buea." she answered.
"Oh, my husband went to University of Buea." I turned to Adwoa and handed her the photo I had selected from the pile. "Here you go," I said, pointing to a few tiny pale specks. "White people!"
She laughed. "Oh, you are crazy. I forgot you were so crazy."
"Here, let me see," said the African lady, holding out her hand for my photos. "Yes, yes I think maybe I've seen him. What's his name?"
"Oh, I think I've seen him somewhere."
"So, have you ever been to Cameroon?" Adwoa asked.
"No, he's a political asylee, so we can't go back. Maybe someday!"
"Have you met his family? Have you met his mom?"
"He has some family that lives around here. I've talked to his mom on the phone before but you know, her English and my Pidgin, not so much." The Cameroonian lady started laughing. For some reason, Africans seem to love it when you talk about pidgin. You don't even have to speak it - even if you just mention it, they start laughing.
Anyway, so we talked for a few minutes more before I left, but I thought the whole incident was pretty funny. Probably because I've been in the same awkward situaton before, handing someone a packet of photos of people who do not look like my customer. More often than not, I have the wrong photos and the customer is peeved until you find the right ones. So I don't blame her for assuming that I wouldn't have any interest in these photos of a black man.
Still, I wonder if we'll ever get to the point that such a thought would never cross our minds.