She hands me the camera. “Focus on me first by holding the button halfway down, then pan up til your finger’s in the middle.”
This puts me immediately into a panic. The first part I understand, but “pan up til your finger’s in the middle” is completely mysterious to me. Til my finger’s in the middle of what? I have no idea. Should I ask? No, she’s clearly in a hurry. She hates clarifying questions–because she hates having to repeat herself–and she especially hates being delayed when in a hurry.
I focus the shot on her, then snap a few shots til it dawns on me–oh fuck, she wants her plus the entire tree in the background. Hence the pan up. But–til my finger’s in the middle of what?
Maybe with some time to think I might have thought of “in the middle of the tree” but–where is my finger supposed to be such that it is positioned correctly to make such a measurement, anyway? I haven’t even gotten this far in the thought process and there would remain, had I done so, such unanswered questions.
“I only got part of the tree,” I say, in as casual a tone as possible. Let’s not put anyone on the defensive. No problem. I can take the heat on this. Just snap a few more.
I back up and kneel down to get the whole shot in. But now the camera won’t focus. “It’s having a hard time focusing,” I say, and she repeats, (kindly, calmly, with great hidden effort) “You have to hold the button halfway down and then pan up.”
“Ahah, yes,” I say (or did I just think it?) and focus the camera on her, then move the camera upwards to get the whole tree.
Now more obviously frustrated, she says “That’s fine.” She says this without regard to whether I’ve actually successfully taken a shot–which I have. She clearly is simply done.
She takes the camera from me, which is still strapped to my neck, and looks through the lens. “Don’t move,” she says brusquely. As she tries to find the shot I say “I did get one of you and the whole tree,” and she replies “Yeah but you have to pan the camera up.”
“I did pan up.”
“It looked like you were moving the whole camera,” she says. “You have to do…” and with her hands she makes a smaller motion than I did–moving the whole camera, I insist she moved the whole camera–but a smaller rotating motion.
She doesn’t give me another chance, she’s in a hurry and doesn’t want to block the sidewalk. We walk back to the van. “I thought I was panning,” I say, “but I guess you really mean more ‘rotating’ than ‘moving’ the camera?” (Fuck I think to myself. I know better than to say 'I guess you mean," that’s practically gaslighting whether I mean it that way or not.. Too late. I hope she didn’t notice.)
“No,” she says, now a note of explicit bitterness in her voice. “I don’t mean ‘rotate’.”
We get in the van.
“Well…?” I’m allowing my voice now to be a bit explicitly pissed because what the hell does she mean? “How do you pan the camera without moving it?”
A sigh from her. “I don’t want to talk about this right now.”
I spend the rest of the van trip fantasizing about refusing to speak to her about any other matter until she has successfully communicated to me what she wanted me to do–or else explicitly acknowledged that she’s terrible at communicating these things and has no idea what’s going on in anyone else’s head. And she’s just like my dad goddammit.
Of course such things are pure fantasy that must never (and can never) be made reality.
And when we get home, she talks to me about how the meeting she went to today about how to care for her friend’s dying son was a very hard meeting.
But anyway yeah that happened and I totally understand and I’m not bitter. Except this kind of failure to communicate happens to us all the time, and she thinks I’m an idiot about certain things, and I think she has no idea how to talk about things she finds very natural (whereas I myself do know how to talk about things I find very natural, hence I’m not applying a double standard or anything) and I really would like to know
what the hell did she want me to do with that camera?