Those funny little stalls stashed in odd corners of a shopping mall or just outside a movie theater, sounding their siren calls for the spare 5 minutes and handful of change.
You step inside with your brother or beloved or best friend, draw the curtain closed, squeeze both your bottoms on a seat designed for one, the sense of mischief overcoming the claustrophobia of a small space. The air in here blows you wayward. You have a chance to make a record that is not one for Sunday School or the family holiday card, you can leave your mark like a paw print in a block of butter. You feed the machine your coins. Clatter of metal on metal as loose nickels and dimes rattle down its throat and land with a clink, joining other coins from other pockets now empty.
Then 4 opportunities: one after another. What faces will you pull and how quickly can you change the tone for maximum dynamic range? Surprised, serious, silly, serene. A kiss, a poke, a blurry one, a cross-eyed duo. Bare your teeth, bug-out your eyes, waggle your tongues, touch your noses. Two heads fill the space of the frame, no background but each other and the speed of an impulse. 4 clicks and you’re done.
Pull the curtains open and you blink back into context, waiting while the machine in the booth hems and haws over your portraiture. You hop from foot to foot, one eye on the clock or the door – the movie will start soon, your ride will drive up at any minute now. Finally, the string of photos emerges from the slot on the side of the machine and into your hands. When it comes out, you crowd over it, eager to see this fresh minted comic strip of incidental intimacy. Unplanned. Impulsive. Enduring.