Where are my photos? The question had never before occurred to me. I just assumed that the thousands of photos I take with my phone remain on my phone forever. But the other day I was searching for a video I took last summer of a squirrel, perched on the edge of a dumpster, eating a french fry, just like a little person, and was told it needed to be downloaded from “the cloud.”
I called customer service. “Where is this cloud?” I demanded to know after choosing the right option from the main menu.
The receptionist took a deep inhale, exhaled slowly, and then said, in soft, measured tones: “You are not ready. It takes many years of training to be able to undertake a journey such as that. Or you could become a premium member.”
So I bought a trial-version of the premium membership and the customer service rep emailed me the instructions on finding my photos. The instructions were not quite what I had expected. Here is the summary: I would have to journey to the Cloud – a long journey through hill and dale, forest and meadow, brook and stream and river, over perilous seas and scorched desert sands, and climb the great mountain at the top of which stood the Cloud. And there I would the king, the King of the Cloud, or Cloud King as he preferred to be called, and ask him to show me where my photos were located.
I left at dawn and journeyed through a forest, and then the hillsides, and then the foothills of a mountains. There I camped, and built a fire, and made S’mores by the fire. Then I curled up under the stars, and dreamed that I was eating at a fancy restaurant with my digital photos. The digital photos kept ordering food, and I had to keep going into the kitchen to make the food. In the last scene, I was balancing many plates on a large serving tray, and being very worried that everyone could see me struggling under the weight.
I climbed the mountain the next morning, all the way to the top, and there at the very top, where the air was thin and wisps of cloud surrounded all, was an enormous castle, and inside was an enormous throne room, with an enormous throne upon which sat an enormous king, the King of the Giants.
“Greetings,” he said. “I understand you are come to Giant Land to discover where your photos are being held.”
“Yes,” I said. “Wait…how did you know that?”
“The Cloud knows all. If you wish to find your photos, I will show you…but only if you can defeat us in contest. First, you must run a race against Thialfi, my swiftest runner.”
I looked at this Thialfi. He did not look very fast, and I had been doing 30 minutes on the elliptical a few days a week, so I felt pretty confident. The photos would be mine in no time.
The King clapped his hands, and the race began. Thialfi ran very fast, and in a moment was far ahead of me. After a few seconds of intense running, I felt a sharp cramp, and had to slow down, and was walking slowly while clutching my side that I shuffled across the finish line that was marked off by two winged dogs that legend said to hold in their mouths the virtues of Temperance and Truth.
The King watched me gasp and heave for a few minutes, and when I had regained my composure, said, “Well, let’s move on to the second contest. You must engage in a drinking contest with Thor, the lightening god who is also good at drinking.”
I thought it rather unfair to set me against a god who is known for drinking, but I held my tongue, and hoped if the beer would be cold. I can drink beer only if its really, really cold.
We were brought each a large horn filled with beer. I am not kidding. A horn, like that would come from a giant…I don’t know what. A giant ox? Do they have those?
Again the king’s assistant clapped – he looked like he enjoyed this part of his job – and we began the drink. Thor tipped it back and drained the entire horn in one draught. For a good ten, maybe twelve seconds he was dumping beer down his throat. I could see the gulps going down his neck as he tipped his head back. Glug…glug…glug.
I had put the beer down after a sip – it was very bitter and although I don’t mind a good IPA once in a while, it is usually too hoppy to take down in a large gulp. I was munching on pretzels and getting ready for another good sip when Thor turned his horn over towards the ground and showed all that he had drank the entire horn of beer.
“Well, that was two out of three,” I said, trying to be a good loser.
“One chance remains,” said the King. “For the third and final contest, you must pick up my cat.”
“Your cat?” How hard could it be to pick up a cat?
They brought in the cat on a wheelbarrow roughly the size of a small car. The cat, a grayish brown tabby with a white belly, was asleep, curled up in that ring shape, you know where they curl up on the side in a perfect circle, looking like a big furry button. Very carefully they tipped over the wheelbarrow – it took several men to lift it even that high – and slip the sleeping ring onto the floor. The cat did not awake.
“Now,” said the King of the Giants, “try to pick up my cat. If you can do it, I will show you where your photos are kept.”
I took a few cautious steps towards the cat. I have learned from experience that you should not touch a sleeping cat. And then I had an idea. I stood a few feet away from the cat, and said, “Psswss, psswss, psswss,” I said. “Come get your food! It’s out of the can!”
The enormous cat woke up at an instant and ran over to a corridor on the other side of the throne room, past an arrow labeled “Kitchen” in medieval-looking block lettering.
The king shrugged his shoulders and said, “All right, I guess that counts. Very well. I will show you where your photos are being kept.”
One of the king’s servants stepped forward holding a pillow upon which was balanced a laptop. With the servant supporting the bottom of the pillow, the king flipped up the laptop screen, and began typing on it. After a few moments of typing, he motioned for me to come over to his side so I could see the screen.
“There,” he said. “You see that folder down there marked ‘Photos’?”
“That’s where your photos are.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, thank you.”
“But beware!” said the Cloud King. “Many a traveler has become trapped by the photos.”
I nodded politely at the advice and then went home with my photos. I still haven’t looked at them. Five-thousand photos doesn’t really seem like much until you actually start to look at that many one by one. I did, however, find the video of the squirrel eating the french fry. I know that all my friends would love to see it.