You probably got some inside connection, so many numbers that you gotta rolodex them

Did I tell all y’all that my camera‘s broken? I probably didn’t. I think I got saltwater and sand in it, but who knows. Not I, since I was too busy blithely taking photos in said saltwater and sand to really be careful. Right smart of me, I know.

Anyway, a few days after my beach escapades, I turned on my camera. The lens wouldn’t retract, and the camera refused to take photos. Seriously, what drama. So I hunted around for my Costco receipt, stuffed everything back into the Canon box, did some research on another camera I had my eyes on (two upgrades up yet still cheaper than my old one, 2.5″ LCD, and a new ISO 800 option? Hell yeah!) and off I went to Costco.

Some guy named Carl at the Merchandise Return counter took back the camera, remarking, while inspecting it, “I like this camera.”

“I love this camera!” I said. “I’m really sad it’s not working any more.”

He counted out cash in twenty-dollar bills, handing me back $375. I stared. “Dude, I can’t even remember the last time I had that much cash on me.”

He laughed. “That’s a good thing, you know.”

I agreed.

I wandered off to the camera section, where I was disappointed to not see the SD600 I wanted. An employee named Madeline informed me it was only available online. GROSS! I said mentally. Outwardly, I just sighed and thanked her and inspected the few cameras displayed. I was stuck trying to decide between two little point-and-shoot digital cameras: One was smaller and cheaper, the other was a bit larger and more expensive, but it was a Nikon. But nothing looked as good as the SD600 that wasn’t there. What to do, what to do… I scrunched up my face, as I am wont to do when I can’t make up my mind (which means I perpetually walk around with a scrunched-up face, since I am so indecisive, it’s not even funny).

“Excuse me,” I asked the stranger next to me, “when they say ‘instant rebate,’ do they mean you get the rebate right at the register, when you pay for it?”

“Yes,” he said. He glanced at me curiously. “Are you looking to buy a digital camera?”

“Yeah, I wanted the Canon SD600, but they don’t have it here. I’ll have to check it out online, then.”

“My wife and I just bought a digital camera for our graduate recently, and now we’re looking for one ourselves. I think he really likes his.”

I smiled. “I bet he does. Mine was sort of a graduation present, too. Best thing ever!”

“Have you figured out what you’re looking for in a new camera?”

“Well, basically, I just returned the Canon SD400, and now I need a new one.”

I guess he took my response to mean I didn’t know much about cameras, because the kind man took it upon himself to educate me in the finer subtleties of digital technology. “Well, see, this one is 6.1 megapixels. That’s really good. You can even record videos on this one! Plus, it comes with a memory card.”

“Those are useless,” I said a trifle impatiently. “You can only fit, like, four photos on there, so you have to buy another one separately.”

He laughed. “Yeah. But, see, this Kodak one has internal memory, too, so you can save images directly to the camera, if you ever want to do that.”

“Oh.” This, then, I hadn’t heard of. “That’s kinda cool.”

His wife looked like she was done with her camera-browsing, so he started to turn away to join her. “Good luck!”

“Thanks, you too!”

I stood there for a long while, playing with the Kodak camera. I turned it on and off, and on again, checked to see if it had a manual setting (yeah, it’s called “Custom,” apparently), familiarized myself with the setup menus, looked to see if it had continuous shooting and a self-timer (yes to both), and took several photos of the advertising sign using the macro setting.

Another man stood nearby, doing his own camera-browsing. While I inspected my macro photos, he glanced over. “Excuse me,” he said, “do you know anything about digital cameras?”

I swallowed a laugh. Here I had gone from one guy thinking I didn’t know jack, to another guy thinking I looked like I knew what I was doing.

“A little bit,” I said. “I just returned a Canon, which was really good. They don’t have any Canons on display here, otherwise I would recommend those to you. And I don’t know anything about the other types of cameras here, except Nikon is, obviously, really well regarded.”

He nodded gravely.

I continued with a basic explanation (because that’s all I know) of megapixels and memory cards, shutter speeds and the different types of settings available. “You can record videos on some digital cameras, too!” I added excitedly.

“Thank you for your help,” he said formally, but smiling.

I approached Madeline the Camera Girl again. “Could you turn on that little Nikon for me, please?”

She couldn’t do that, for whatever lame reason I can’t remember, probably because it was so lame and useless. But she seemed friendly enough, so I harassed her into helping me make a decision: “See, what I really want is the Canon SD600, but, like you said, I’ll have to buy it online. Meanwhile, I need a camera to get me through the next week or two. Would you pick this Nikon, or this Kodak?”

“Girl, you need to just get one of those digital SLRs!” said Madeline.

“Buddy, those are rocking cameras,” I said, laughing, “but I’m not at that level yet. Plus, if I had a big camera like that, I wouldn’t be able to take it with me everywhere, and then I’d never use it.”

“Well, I saw one of your pictures when you were returning your camera, and I think you’re already at that level. Forget the point-and-shoot, we have a really nice Nikon SLR over there that you should look at instead.”

I shook my head, protesting, “I’m pretty much decided on that SD600.” I felt like a parrot, repeating the same thing over and over. “I wouldn’t have returned the one I had, if it hadn’t stopped working. I loved that thing, man.”

She smiled in sympathy. “I used to have that exact same one, too, until someone took it from me. It’s an awesome camera. I even read the entire manual that came with it, and everything!”

I started laughing. “Are you serious? I thought I was the only one who read instruction manuals! I felt bad, because I just returned that camera and forgot to take out all the little sticky-notes and marked pages I left in the manual.” We shook our heads at one another, amused.

“Okay,” I said, “but seriously, between the Nikon and the Kodak, which would you recommend?”

“Well,” said Madeline the Camera Girl, “I’d say go for the Kodak. It’s cheaper, and you’re going to be returning it in a week or two anyway, so you might as well save money meanwhile.”

“I like the way you think.”

“But,” she added, “I’m turning on that Nikon dSLR for you. You just let me know if you change your mind.”

I shook my head, smiling. “Maybe when I have more money, buddy.”

She tossed a parting shot over her shoulder as she moved away: “Start saving up!”

“I’ll try!” I called after her, knowing I wouldn’t, because saving? What’s that?

But I did stop by to check out the Nikon dSLR, which was suitably intimidating, and the only thing I managed to do was turn it off and then on again.

“How is it?” asked Madeline the Camera Girl, passing by.

“Scary,” I said.

I went off to pay for the Kodak camera, and ended up in a line adjacent to my friend of the camera lessons. “You picked one out!” he said, excited. “Congratulations!”

“Yep! Thanks!”

I waited for my turn to pay, and thought the guy before me in line was joking when he added, “And I’d also like two hotdogs and a Coke, please,” but apparently he wasn’t. When it was my turn, I asked the cashier, “We can pay for the food court items here, too?”

“That’s right.”

My eyes widened like those of a kid in a candy aisle. “Oooh,” I said. “Well, then, can I get three churros, too, please?”

“Sure.” He took my Costco card and swiped it, inspected the photo, and remarked in amusement as he handed the card back to me, “You’re smiling like a supermodel there.”

“Ha,” I said, uncomfortable as always with compliments. “That was the day I got my own real deal Costco card, and I was just hella excited about it.”

I paid for my new camera with some of the wads of cash that Carl from Merchandise Return had given me, and then picked up my churros from the food court. As I walked back towards the store exit, I passed none other than Carl himself, who glanced at the camera box under my arm, smiled widely, and exclaimed, “You found another one!”

“Yeah!”

I felt like a superstar. It was almost as if Costco had opened its doors that day only so that its customers and employees could cheer me on in my camera-shopping expedition. It was a feeling akin to that one song, Tell me what it’s like to be the one and only All American Girl, the All American Girl, the all amazing crazy girl.

The camera excitement lasted all of one afternoon, before I decided I hated this stupid Kodak camera with its horrendously grainy photo-viewing on the LCD screen, no viewfinder (Who cares? you say. I care, dammit!), and horrible menu setup.

I like viewfinders, even if I rarely use them. But what I mostly want – because the SD400 totally spoiled me – is easy-access setup and controls, like ISO settings and auto vs. manual switching on the main camera interface, so that I don’t have to stand there for 45 seconds too long, scrolling through menu options and switching settings when I could have taken five photos already. Geez, Kodak, get with the program already.

Also, since I feel the need to add a disclaimer, it’s not that I’m some sort of professional photographer. Digital cameras are now as ubiquitous as cell phones: Everyone and their grandmother has a digital camera these days; so do all my friends. But I do carry my camera with me everywhere, and I actually use it more often than anyone else I know, as evidenced by whatever I’ve uploaded to flickr (which is only a fraction of the photos I’ve taken, because my harddrive shows 10,000 photos since I bought my camera last August). A ten-month lifespan for a digital camera?! Well, that’s what I get for carrying it around 24/7, I suppose. And since the SD400 spoiled me so wonderfully, it’s only right that I find a replacement that lives up to the same standard.

I ordered the SD600 online yesterday, and now I keep logging into the Costco website every chance I get and compulsively clicking on “Order Status,” which doesn’t tell me anything except Your order processing is in process. Bear in mind that I went with the Express Shipping option, and my order is still in process? It’s enough to make one want to stab somebody.

This morning, I woke up because my cell phone beeped, and it was a text message from my buddy J, asking, “‘Sup, photo paparazzi supreme?” Seriously, I love my friends. They know how to alleviate stab-worthy situations.

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