Time was, every family had a picture album – that anachronism bound carefully in a large leather book-shaped monstrosity, kept safe where dust settles and mice scurry around; taken out for occasions where boredom is accentuated and friends or neighbors have stayed long past their welcome, and so it is taken out carefully, dusted off and laboriously paged through, telling of a history for each page, each photograph laid meticulously upon the thick plaster-backboard of a person’s history.
It used to be that we all had one picture for an event – or, two at most, once Peoples Drug (for those who are old enough to remember; and that, in and of itself, was somewhat of a historical marker – when “Peoples” Drug – the drugstore of the “people”, was bought out by successive entities of greater reserve until it finally became a nondescript, boringly corporate entity under the designation of “CVS”; somehow, something was lost when the corner drugstore started in a suburb of D.C. was engulfed by mergers and corporate purchases) declared a two-for-one sale.
Of course, we all kept in safekeeping those brownish negatives that neatly fit into those thin plastic columns (i.e., thrown into a drawer based upon the sequence of receipt) – you know, the ones you hated to slide out because you could never get it back in without bending them, and somehow you suspected that they were never meant to be fit within the columns of plastic in the first place.
Somehow, there was something quaint and innocent about a picture album that only had one shot of a slice of life that told a limited tale about a person’s continuum of historical detail – by contrast, today’s Smartphone and digital chip that can hold literally thousands of photographs, and the person who is willing to show all in a public display for everyone in the universe to see, by downloading, uploading, displaying and replaying, for a person barely in his or her twenties.
The picture album is an anachronism, telling in its humility, limited access and manifesting a humble origin of consciousness. It is a relic that bifurcates a “before” and an “after” – of a time now gone and lost forever, replaced by an after that manifests a change most of us never asked for.
To that end, the picture album is likened to a Federal or Postal employee with a medical condition. That Federal or Postal employee suffers from a history of that which most of his or her coworkers are completely unaware of. And like the picture album that is taken out from the dusty bookshelves of a corner closet, when the Federal or Postal employee comes to a point of needing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the reaction displayed by others is often one of boredom, lack of concern or even of interest shown in forced phoniness. For, what others know or find out about a person’s life – even of his or her medical condition – is ultimately a private slice of life that is shared with quiet discretion.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire