Hell hath a portrait studio.
Worse still – it is apparently a franchise, as I’ve had the misfortune to visit several of the earthly branches.
My visits were not for personal reasons. It is both a widely acknowledged and accepted fact that my countenance shatters mirrors, sets dogs to howling, and turns the occasional Grecian tourist to stone. The State Department has issued warnings, and I’ve put together (at the ASPCA’s request) a form rejection letter to herpetologists who request a lock of my hair.
No, my visits relate to my daughter who inexplicably turned out OK in the looks department, although her pediatrician says it can take two years before the horns start to come in.
Yet to return to the point, all of us are probably aware of how this little ritual of parenthood comes down. Relatives clamor for pictures of baby. Parents take baby to portrait studio. At this point, Beelzebub takes the form of a college student and gets involved.
Step one involves the selection of a background for the purpose of amplifying the baby’s inherent cuteness. This isn’t a problem, per se, but a smart photographer would select the background based on washability, because I can promise you that something is going to leak out of that baby before this sitting is over. That, however, is a problem for Beez and the lost soul manning the phone.
Step two, unfortunately, falls squarely into my realm as parental authority, a job for which I did not apply, am not qualified, and routinely show up to intoxicated. Regardless of my seeming inability to get fired, they (Beez) want me to get her (Baby) to smile – or failing that, not do what comes naturally when one is two feet tall, in an unfamiliar space, and confronted by an Agent of the Dark One wielding an apparatus that puts out enough lumens to blot out the sun – that being bawl like you discovered a novel written entirely in text speak.
Which there is.
…I’m… I’m going to need a moment.
Alright. I’m back, and I realize I may have overstated my role in step two. Specifically, it tends to be confined to keeping the baby from turning in to a snotty Chernobyl. Beez, much to my chagrin, attempts to elicit smiles from the baby by producing stuffed animals – that I’m reasonably certain were used as props in Carnival of Souls – and repeatedly thrusting them into my daughter’s personal space. Meanwhile, I observe and quietly resolve to cease encouraging the baby in her ambulatory endeavors in favor of instructions on how to make a tiny fist and deliver a tiny uppercut.
Eventually, either because the baby has ceased all pretense of cooperation or because Beez has picked up that I’m trying to kill him with my mind, the photo shoot ceases, and we move on to selection of prints and negotiation over a “package.” Package, in the previous sentence, is trade shorthand for “how destitute you (the customer) will be at the end of this transaction.”
Bizarrely, the cost bothers me less than the selection because Beez and company are still laboring under the assumption, in this era of iPhones and Drone Warfare, that their ability to make a picture black and white or incrementally fade out the edges somehow impresses me. In short, I’m never quite sure how to react. To be fair, nor are they when I ask about the “Dorian Gray Transference Option.” Eventually, Beez and I settle upon a package containing far more pictures than I want and far less than the demon wants to sell me. The implication is that he is on commission.
To which I mentally reply, “Of course.”
Otherwise, it wouldn’t be hell.