"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Sunday, April 3, 2011

True Confessions About Small Business Owners and Tradesmen

I've been trying to learn to use my new camera and was doing pretty well until I inadvertently got it off spot metering.  The bright Oklahoma sunshine promptly washed out a zillion photos, some of which, I am certain, would have been magnificent.  I am SURE of it.
Two days of trying this and trying that didn't work so I decided to go to the local camera shop and ask for help or see if I needed to buy something to fix it. 

There are two photography shops in the area.   One has been around a lot longer, is bigger and has more inventory.  The scuttlebutt is that they aren't that nice and will try to sell you things you don't need.  Regardless, that is where I went, first.  They certainly weren't ugly to anyone, but they were swamped with customers.  From what I could tell, they were trying to spend time answering the questions people had, which is great, but while I waited, there was a lot of hawking going on and the clerks looked frazzled trying to keep up.  They rushed from one customer to the next, just trying to keep from falling too far behind.   After nearly thirty minutes waiting for a free clerk, I decided to go to the other shop in the next town over. 

Who knew the photography business was so brisk?

The second shop was completely different.  Smaller, less inventory (but plenty), good parking and the owner took the time to look over my camera, check the metering, etc.  He then spent over thirty minutes going over what I could do to fix my exposure problem, including taking me outside to take sample shots in the glare.  While he worked with me, a steady stream of customers came through and he greeted many of them on a first name basis.  

He was an excellent teacher and had me take a number of shots under his direction, indoors, as well.  I felt bad to take up so much of his time but he was patient.  Moreover, he didn't try to sell me ANYTHING.  In fact, he told me I didn't need a lens hood and said I already had a really good start on my gear.  I ended up buying a UV filter for my zoom but I was going to get one, anyway, and I was the one who brought it up.  I will definitely be going back there the next time I need help or supplies or want more equipment.  He has classes every couple of weeks and I wouldn't miss that experience.  I went home and tried out the tips he'd given me and it made all the difference. 
He struck me as a natural teacher but, in addition, a smart business man who knows photographers will spend a fortune whether you push things at them, or not.  At this point, at no real cost to him, I feel like I owe him.  Moreover, if I have $100.00 to spend, that is where I WANT it to go. 

 I have been wanting to shoot these napkins for a long time - the accordion folds always catch my eye:
Since I had the Easter Eggs, I thought I would add the Easter bunny to the scene.  Upon reviewing the photos, I found the easter bunny to be downright creepy and menacing looking, like a stereotypical child mol*ester (word disguised to try to avoid perv*rted spammers).  That's a shame because some of the shots were really nice:
In thinking about the camera shop owner, it strikes me that we've built the same sort of one-on-one relationship with our plumber, our propane company, our landscape guys, our dentist, our insurance agent, our siding guys, our electrician and our roofer.  Note the use of the term "our" that denotes the notion of possession or relationship.  

A number of companies we've dealt with since we got back have been family owned and run.    It's been so nice to be back home in Oklahoma where you deal with real people who own their small companies, live in the community, take pride in their work and will do whatever it takes to make things right.  I don't mean to suggest that other places don't have the same attitude towards their work when they own the company. I think it is more a question of dealing with a service company that is small enough that the owner gets his/her hands dirty, has long term employees and doesn't just send out a crew or hire short term employees just because they're cheap. 

I also credit my husband who has taught me about respect, empathy and admiration for tradesmen and small business owners.  I spent many years of my life in academia getting my undergrad and law degree, followed by more years working with white collar professionals.  I never thought that I was snooty about small businessmen and tradesmen and certainly wouldn't have wanted to come across that way.  Still, I now realize that I just didn't get it.  I just didn't.  And that embarasses me.   I was all educated up but missed something fundamental.   By virtue of working closer to the top of the consumer food chain, and, frankly, greatly influenced by a higher education filter and the types of people I hung around with as a result, I missed the forest for the trees.  These people, as a group, are real.  But so often, some of us don't even see these guys - they are dismissed as irrelevant or, embarassingly enough, as sort of losers/under achievers because they don't wear a suit to work or make a living with words or college degree.

I feel like a city girl who never really understood where beef came from, despite eating more than my share of steaks. 

True confessions.

Here is a photo of Evelyn I was really pleased with even though the exposure was off:
Evelyn stretching:
 Pearlie refusing to look at the camera:

 This one is still overexposed but I liked Evelyn's expression:
Evelyn was digging a gopher hole.  She isn't supposed to but I haven't noticed that particularly slows her down when the spirit is upon her:

 The bluebirds like to perch at the top of Evelyn's tree:
My good looking father-in-law:
The photo was taken in the dark barn and the light was wacky so it is not the best photo - but I still liked it.

Tomorrow is my birthday and Father-in-law is going to come over to help his son tear out the dropped roof in my kitchen that has been vexing me for over two years.  Yeah!

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


BilboWaggins said...

Many Happy Returns Penny, hope you have a wonderful day.

Some gorgeous photos and always lovely to see The Girls looking splendid.

I think the small shop/business thing is one of the best bits about moving to a rural location. We do the same as you, use these stores and tradesmen as much as possible and get to know the families who own them. There is a value which is hard to describe in this day and age going into a shop where you are known and the staff have time for a chat about local matters. And of course, if we don't use them, we lose them . . .

Miriam said...

Happy Birthday for tomorrow, Penny!!!
I hope you have a really wonderful day!

I love the first photograph!

Penny said...

Exactly, Bilbo!
And btw, I find it fascinating that even though we are on different continents, we have a shared set of rural concepts. In many ways, the difference between urban and rural living is far more extreme than it is for two rural entities living in different timezones.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!

Owning a small business in a small town has been one of the richest experiences in my life. I may not be wealthy, but I'm happy.


Florida Farm Girl said...

Happy Birthday, Miss Penny!!! I sure wish I had a local photo shop like that. I'm perplexed and bamboozled by my camera sometimes and would really like somebody to help me see the light!! The so-called classes where I bought it were a joke. Of course, that guy has sold the shop to someone else now, so they might be better if I checked on them. Anyway, you're doing good with the pictures, just keep it up. And I'm so glad that you are enjoying your life a bit more these days!!!! Ain't it wonderful???????

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Penny!!

Enjoyed looking at all of your pictures. Need some new ones of Charlie!


Nancy said...

Penny, Happy Birthday! And welcome back to blogging. I had missed you and your humor, even at yourself. We all have our quirks and I admire people who can make their own quirks public and laugh at themselves. You and the new camera seem to be getting along well. Great photos. And congrats on the new grandson.

Wolfie said...

Hi Penny, I just had to leave a comment. I adore your babies (dogs that is of course) and the photos of your dad-in-law are lovely...they make me think of my dad. You can really see the character and the life experience in his face. Growing old is not all bad...so many good things comes with experience and having lived your life. I love your sewing...I am only just starting to dabble with quilting and patchwork, and need to get some more large pieces of fabric so I can start working on my dream bed quilt...at the moment I am trying to decide on colours...Keep taking wonderful pictures. I beleve I am not the only one enjoying them:) X Ylva