A Kodachrome Christmas?

by Karen Topakian

Count me in. As one of the thousands of people worldwide who sent Kodachrome film. Seven rolls to be exact.  Into Dwayne’s Lab in Parsons, Kansas before Dec 30.  The last day for processing this much-loved film. Anywhere in the world.

Kodak stopped making the chemicals needed to process the film. And stopped making the film in 2009.

I set my sights on mailing the film on Dec 21. Nine days shy of the final, final deadline.

Dec 21 it had to be. We were leaving the next morning on a 6 a.m. flight to RI. That film had to be in the mail prior to departure.

Out I went on the morning of the 21st, ready to photograph anything and everything in my ‘hood that could take advantage of the red. Maximize its potential. Minolta 140EX camera circa 1996, in hand.

With the City in full holiday splendor, red stood out front and center on every corner. I easily returned home with two finished rolls. Only to find that I had miscalculated. I had five more rolls of film to shoot. And not much time to do so.

At 4 p.m. I walked out the door ready to shoot my way to the P.O. at 18th and Castro. On every block I had to shoot a roll of 36 exposures. In the waning sunlight. Walk and shoot. Look and observe. Just shoot.

I entered the P.O. at 5:15 with all but a few shots lefts on the last roll. Good enough, I thought. As I stood in line behind the last minute Christmas mailing public and an unhappy screaming baby. I re-thought. The P.O. closes at 5:30. I still had 15 more minutes to squeeze off a few more shots to finish the final roll. Back out I went trolling the block for a few more images.

Mission Accomplished. I dumped the last roll of film into my backpack and then felt around for my wallet. I couldn’t feel it. I dropped my belongings on the darkened street. Fumbled through film canisters, holiday packages and holiday cards. My hands felt around in the dark space in my backpack. They came up empty.

Where was my wallet? Had I stupidly left it at home?

Then I spied tucked into the canvas bag holding my packages, a Streetsheet. I had bought it from a woman in real need at Hartford and 18th Streets. Proving I did have my wallet then. But where was my wallet now? The one that held my credit and debit cards and cash needed to mail my film! Had I dropped it out of my backpack?

I ran down 18th Street across Castro to Hartford to look for it on the ground. No luck.

Ignoring traffic lights and cars, I bolted back up Castro Street to the P.O. Hoping they would still be open. That I could look for it indoors in the bright lights.

Sweating and cursing at my self, I arrived at the glass door as the beleaguered postal worker locked it. I begged him to please let me in. Telling him I thought I had lost my wallet inside.

He let me in. Suggesting I ask the clerk about it.

Two people stood in line between me and a clerk. Who might have my wallet. Shifting from foot to foot, tearing at my clothes, which were too hot to don. I waited.

What would I do if she didn’t have my wallet? Could I get a city car share in the next few minutes. Drive to the P.O. that stayed open until 8 p.m. to mail my seven precious rolls of film?

It was my turn in line.

I spilled my guts. My clerk turned to the neighboring clerk and asked if anyone had turned in a wallet. She asked me to describe it. Red I said. Small. Bulging. She reached under her counter. Pulled out my wallet. I screamed. Not as loud as the still unhappy baby but I screamed. Then almost cried.

The clerk said someone found it on a counter. Not remembering but I must have left it when I entered the first time.

I mailed my seven rolls of Kodachrome film. Two Christmas packages and a handful of holiday cards. Thank you stranger for your act of kindness. Thank you postal worker for letting me in after closing time.

Is this what Kodak meant when they referred to a Kodachrome Christmas?