By Jay Jamison
I cannot remember whether I’ve ever received a notice in my adult life that my services are no longer needed. Maybe I have and I’m only suppressing a painful memory. When I was in elementary school, I had the distinction of being a projectionist, a kid skilled in threading 16mm film into a Bell and Howell movie projector. Being a projectionist gave me an elevated sense of worth, I was more than just another ant in the anthill, I was somebody important; a projectionist. Elementary teachers needed me for my special skill, and I was called upon to free them from the maddening task of getting a movie ready as the capper for their lesson plans. Old black and white films about the solar system or the lives of people on Papua New Guinea or some other esoteric topic, were my stock-in-trade. Having little kid hands also helped with the winding of the film into the many wheels and cogs of the projector. Then the day came when I was told that my services were no longer needed. My heart sank, my shoulders sagged, with the pitiable grief of a little kid, whose career was over. I can’t remember why I was demoted, maybe I’m suppressing that memory also, but the stark fact was I was no longer a star, no longer a projectionist. I was once again a nobody, just another kid in the elementary school rabble. That this tale involves 16mm movie film, and a Bell and Howell movie projector, should be a pretty good clue for anyone trying to guess my current age. There are people of a certain age in Jacksonville who remember the Camera Shop on the north side of the square or DP Express Photo film processing center, which still stands on Veterans Drive, no longer in operation. The people who worked in these places also received the news that their services were no longer needed, as chemical film photography went the way of the dinosaurs. When I received word about a month ago that my services as a columnist were no longer needed, I’ll admit I was downcast. But unlike film photography and old-fashioned movie projectors, words endure—they remain indispensable.
After 17 years, column-writing had become something of a habit, almost like breathing. There are many habits we acquire in our journeys through life. I worked for Charlie Bellatti back in the 1980’s doing advance work for Carson & Barnes Circus. Even though it’s been thirty-four years since I was on the saw dust trail, I still make mental notes about bridge weight limits and underpass height markers, since I routed a large convoy of circus trucks three decades ago. So, how was I going to adjust to having no deadlines to meet? A few days after I got my notice, Marcy Patterson called. I was surprised and delighted. Now my words are being published in The Source! It looks like my old act isn’t bound for the shredder after all. I have to keep reminding myself of the old quote attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Surprisingly, Mr. Bell’s adage overlooked another possibility—getting that phone call.