One Hour Photo


I was driving with my son when we passed this old strip mall that had a One Hour Photo Shop.

Intrigued, he asked me what it was.

“Well,” I explained, “sometimes people need their pictures quickly for some reason or another.”

He gave me a funny look and then asked, “Well then why would they want to wait for an hour?”

And with that, I aged about 10 years more.

One Hour Photo was a cool concept around twenty years ago, back in the days when you didn’t know if the pictures you took would reflect the image you imagined (when the flash went off and you manually advanced the film, by the way). It was double the price to get them so quickly and was usually reserved for special occasions. I usually had to wait the few days until it came back, sadly checking “Standard Processing” in the box on the film envelope.

Waiting an hour for pictures is an insanely long time in this age of Instagram and twitter.  Even the idea of “developing” something is a foreign concept.  Come to think of it, there are only a few things I can think of that require waiting:

1. Having a baby. Though technically, you find out if it will be a girl a boy right away so THAT one is over, but still, you have to wait nine months.

2. Doctors. It’s amazing that people still have patience for this one, but sit in any doctor waiting room and it’s remarkably quiet. The sad thing is, we shouldn’t really have to wait, because we did set an appointment time and all. Maybe doctors need a refresher on what that means. Why no one has ever led a waiting-room-revolt is beyond me.

3. Lines at ComicCon. Or any con, for that matter. Anyone who has been to one knows what I mean.

4. College acceptances and SAT test results. True, it comes by e-mail so you don’t have to wait at your mailbox, but you still have to wait. In the most shameless ploy ever,  the College Board offers students early access to their scores for a minimal fee. Or you can wait longer and get your scores for free. Nice, College Board. Can we say, exploitation??

5. Publishing. To me, this one is really surprising. I can publish this blog post in seconds. But try and get your manuscript published and it’s at least a year, maybe two, from the moment someone signs a contract. That’s just insane. Maybe that’s why e-books are taking over the world. Get with the program publishing houses.

6. Construction. Now, I’ve seen Extreme Home Makeover so I know you can build an entire house in a week. Why, then, in the name of all that is holy, does it take six months to get a kitchen cabinet door and handle??

There are more things we wait for, but the average time we are waiting is far less than it was in the One Hour Photo days. We don’t wait for commercials. We don’t wait for the news. If our computer takes more than a minute to turn on we’re making Genius Bar appointments at the Apple Store. We are moving faster and faster. Maybe that’s why there are so many kids with ADD. Why should anyone sit in a seat for an hour and wait for a bell?

I’m not knocking the fast paced life. But there is something to waiting. It’s the conversations during the commercial break that disappear, the sitting down at five o’clock to watch the news that is missing from dinnertime – instead of getting it all in one sentence NYT updates.  And just that anticipation that comes with One Hour Photo shops.

But still, I need to take in my laptop. I seriously can’t wait a full 60 seconds to have it start up. I got a life to lead here.

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5 replies

  1. Favorite line: “Why, then, in all that is holy, does it take six months to get a kitchen cabinet door and handle??”
    Why indeed. LOVE it!

  2. Finding out gender when pregnant still takes until about week 20.

  3. Your post makes me think of Arcade Fire’s “We used to Wait”.

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