Saved by a SelfieBy DAVE KIFFER
June 29, 2015
Yes, I admit that in my lifetime I have taken more than a few photographs of myself in front of monumental things.
Back before cell phones and I-cameras (or whatever they are called) we – as a people – used to huddle before important things – things important enough for us to plan whole trips around seeing them – and take pictures of ourselves just to prove to the folks back home that we actually went and saw those important things.
The selfi, that reunited me with the contents of my locker, was worth at least 250,000 yen.
“Here we are in front of the Statue of Liberty.”
“Where is it?”
“It’s there, back behind Tommy’s head.”
“I can’t see it. Is it behind his cowlick?”
“No, over there.”
“It looks so small. How come Mikey is wearing that stupid hat.”
“It is small, it’s far away, we were on the ferry. The hat is covering his sunburn.”
“Uh oh, Petey’s fly is open.”
Anyway, in this now selfie-absorbed world, everyone has a million pictures of themselves on their I-whatevers, just to prove that they exist apparently. And that existence seems to revolve around a lot of non-important things. Just like the posts on Facebook. And now even temples sell selfie sticks guaranteed to get you in the right angles with the deities.
But I have been converted.
I am now here to tell you that selfies can be really, really, really important.
I will explain.
I was recently touring a big theme park in a country where English is not the common language.
Now, I’m not a big one for amusement park rides. I don’t like feeling sick to stomach or spinning around wildly in the dark only to discover that I am actually outside, careening upside and backwards through midway. Yes, I realize that makes me officially “no fun.”
But even as a “no fun” guy, I couldn’t resist waiting in a long line to see the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”
And yes, it was pretty fun to step into Hogwarts Village for the first time. It seemed so real, so true to “life,” except of course, for the 50,000 visitors flocking around to by Butter Beer (great foam and weak cream soda taste) and glow in the dark wizarding wands.
Anyway, I went on one of the new-fashioned rides in which you don’t really move around too much but the 3-D effects give you the feeling that you are blasting on a broom around Hogwarts, being chased by Dementers and then suddenly zipping about in a game of quidditch.
Before getting in the ride – which was great fun by the way – we had to put our valuables in locker and were given keys. When the ride was over, I couldn’t find my key.
Apparently, losing your locker key just NEVER happens in Japan because I entered a much scarier ride trying to retrieve my belongings.
First, I tried talking to one of the attendants.
“I lost my key.”
“You can’t get into locker? Use key.”
“I lost key.”
“I lost key.
“Oh, I get supervisor.”
About 15 minutes later, a supervisor looking about 15 showed up.
“You use key.”
“No, I lose key.”
“You use key!!!”
“No I lose key.”
“Okay, I get supervisor.”
Another fifteen minutes passed. Another “supervisor” arrives. She looks about 18. Things were improving.
She asks me what was in the locker. I dutifully remembered the camera, my IPad, my day bag full of all sorts of things (including much yen because I was the “bank” for several of my fellow travelers) and the souvenirs I have brought. It is a long list of things, firmly establishing – in my mind, at least – that the contents of the locked locker are indeed mine.
Unfortunately after listening to my list she wrinkles her brow, announces “I get supervisor,” and disappears.
This time, it took about 20 minutes for a “supervisor” to arrive. He seemed very official, having a much more official uniform than the others. Okay, it actually looked like a Captain Kangaroo costume, but I was grasping at straws.
He spoke for a couple of moments to the attendant.
A quick digression here.
Why is it when Japanese to other Japanese they have deeper gruffer voices, but when they speak English to non-Japanese they sound like cartoon characters?
When the supervisor spoke to the attendant he sounded like Toshiro Mifune in “Seven Samurai.” Then when he turned to me he suddenly sounded like Mel Blanc on a helium bender.
“What is problem?”
“I lost my key. I can’t get into my locker.
“Ah, your locker. Did you try your key?”
“I lost my key!”
“Ah, you can’t uuuuuse your key because you loooooose your key.”
He seemed to enjoy the rhyming words, perhaps I had stumbled upon the Japanese Robert Service, in a Captain Kangaroo suit.
“So, what is in the storage locker?”
I repeated the contents hoping that I had not left anything out because by now it seemed as though that would disqualify me from the grand prize of getting my stuff back and leaving the ride.
“Ah, do you have any identification?”
I handed him my wallet.
“No, no, no. do you have any identification on the items in the locker? So we know they are yours.”
Well, no I didn’t.
“What about on your day back, or your camera?”
No, I didn’t.
No, I didn’t.
This was not looking at all good.
“But I know what is in the locker,” I pleaded.
“But we do not know if it is yours,” he said. “By the way, we found your key by the ride.”
“Great,” I replied. “Can I have it back?”
“No,” he replied. “We do not know if is yours.”
Well, he had me there. Even though the key said 688 and the locked locker in front of us was 688, my name was not on the key.
I briefly had the thought, “uh oh, what if I got the number wrong. I am not so good with numbers, what if they open the locker and it’s not my stuff. I wonder if the sushi is good in jail.”
See, Dementers are not the scariest thing at a Harry Potter park, the supervisors are!!!
By now, nearly an hour had elapsed and I was getting anxious, I was supposed to meet up with my fellow travelers soon and they had no idea where I was. And no, I did not have a working cell phone to alert them of my plight.
Then it hit me.
I don’t think I had taken a single “selfie” all trip, except for one, about an hour earlier, as me and a couple of the lads hoisted some Butter Beer.
Actually, it was only half a selfie, because – not being an expert – I had only gotten half of my face in the shot.
“Look, if you open the locker, I will take out my camera and show you a picture of me on the camera that will prove the camera is mine.”
He thought for a minute.
Actually, it would only "prove" that the "owner" of the camera had taken a picture of me, but it was the best I could come up.
His voice was now so high and squeaky that I expected dogs to come running when he spoke.
“That’s sooooooo interrrrrrrressssssssting. Let me get my supervisor.”
By now, we had gone so far up the ladder I expected the Emperor to appear.
He was gone for about five minutes. He returned with a woman dressed in what appeared to be a samurai pantsuit. She did not smile.
He spoke to her briefly in his Toshiro Mifune voice.
Then he turned to me and spoke in "cartoonish" with a hint of Hunger Games “Panem.”
“My supervisor would looovvve to see inside your camera.”
I bet she would. But first I had to tell her everything that was inside the locker. I stood there praying that is was being translated correctly.
So they opened the locker, I took out the camera, opened the back and found the selfie.
They looked at it for what seemed like longer than they should.
“The camera adds ten pounds” I said, briefly forgetting that sarcasm is pretty foreign to most Japanese.
They looked at the picture, they looked at me, they looked at the picture, they looked at me.
I wanted to shout, I am wearing the same stupid group T-shirt!!!!! It is florescent pink. It even says Ketchikan on it!!!!!!
Finally, the supervisor in the samurai pant suit mumbled something in Toshiro Mifune speak to the supervisor in the Captain Kangaroo suit.
He grumbled back.
Then he turned to me.
“You can go.”
“With my stuff? Really?"
“Of course you can, sir. It is yours.”
As if it had been thus all along.
Then they all turned on their heels and I was left to find my own way out.
That, of course, took another 10 minutes. But who’s counting.
So, I am here to proclaim that that particularly selfie, the one that reunited me with the contents of my locker, was worth at least 250,000 yen.
You can do the conversion yourselves.
I still think that most selfies are a complete waste of pixels.
But that one was priceless.
Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2015
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