My MRI Photo Booth by
(35 Stories)

Prompted By Photo Booths

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When I think of photo booths, I think of freaking out in an MRI tube back in the day when the tubes simulated the coffin experience, and nobody offered me ameliorating drugs.

When I think of photo booths, I think of freaking out in an MRI tube.

Since then I’ve left it for others to reap the fun of funny faces, and secret smooches, while I sidle up to the black tie bar and order a Manhattan, straight up, and make chitchat with remote acquaintances, and occasionally get moved by the spirit(s) to bust out on the dance floor.

I could fill a rich scrapbook with strips of pics that were never snapped, from photo booths I declined, featuring persons no longer available or inclined to share a booth. But in the array of my accumulated hypotheticals—wondering how things might have turned out if I had walked on by, that time in the library, or if I had proposed a coffee instead of a walk along the beach at evening, that other time—I can live with the photo ops missed. I still have the MRI pics (somewhere).




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Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):

"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."

The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    I hadn’t thought about the photo booth claustrophobia angle (unlike the notoriously problematic MRI experience), nor of the opportunities missed. Good points. But you mention other missed opportunities and roads not taken– I hope you feel you made a good decisions not walking on by and going for that walk along the beach.

  2. Sorry about the claustrophobia Jonathan, luckily nowadays apparently there are “open MRIs” and the new-fangled photo booths are now boothless!

    Strangely I actually don’t mind the MRI experience – if all is medically well of course. Then it’s a welcome respite from any responsibility, like lying back at the salon for a mani-pedi!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    My husband also freaks out in an closed MRI machine, but they are necessary evils, so I hope you got done was needed, even it it wasn’t as much fun as being crammed into a photo booth, Jon.

    Those selfies you displayed – were they taken at the recent Titian exhibit of the Poesies? I think that’s the beauty I see behind you. Those were stunningly beautiful (I think Mrs. Gardner owned the best one).

    Like Khati, I hope you were happy with the path you took, rather than the photo booths missed, and glad you didn’t veer off the road.

    • Yes, good eye. I selfied in front of Titian’s Rape of Europa, at the Gardner Museum’s recent big and glamorous Titian display. Obscured by my head is Europa, semi-nude with legs akimbo, being abducted by Jupiter in the form of a sinewy white bull. She holds the bull’s horn for dear life while her home and past life recede in the background. The bull’s face is gentle-appearing, just a regular bull with super powers, just taking care of his business.

  4. Marian says:

    A unique and creative take on photo booths, Jon, and very stunning visuals. I share your issues with closed MRI machines and am camera shy, so no photo booth pics for me available.

  5. Suzy says:

    My first thought was that the featured images were you in an MRI machine that had a beautiful painting on the inside. Obviously ridiculous, and my thanks to Betsy for identifying what it really was. They do put pictures of rocket ships or cartoon characters inside pediatric MRI machines, and I’ve always thought they should do it for grown-ups too.

    Thanks for reminding us about a different kind of photo booth. I also love the idea of your “rich scrapbook with strips of pics that were never snapped, from photo booths I declined.” Someday I hope you will take a photo booth picture and write an amusing story about it.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Though I’m not big on closed spaces myself, my lifetime non-usage of photo booths is unrelated to that. But you raise a good point about their, er, “coziness” that I had not considered, Jon. And I appreciate the unique approach to this week’s prompt. That said, I would think that a photo booth’s typically flimsy curtain, as opposed to a fourth wall, would give you some comfort as to your ability to escape in a moment’s notice.

    • John, by way of clarification, in the few times I was ever in a “photo booth” (within the meaning of the phrase contemplated by the prompt, ie, w a curtain, bench, and celluloid strip of funny faces) (which would have been eons ago when my kids were of bar/bat mitzvah age), I was not anxious from the closed curtain and the tight space; rather, the expressed memory of anxiety in my story arises from a long-ago MRI, likely occurring at the tail end of the bar/bat era, when I slipped on slippery courthouse steps, not exactly a metaphor, and landed on the small of my back, with big pain; so there may be a double moral to my story, avoid photo booths and avoid court houses; it was the conjoinditure of the MRI tube as a “form” of “photo booth” (arguably of a different sort than contemplated by the prompt) which led to my story, or I could say was the off ramp for my story.

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    Somehow, the photo booth is not as bothersome to me as an MRI. Perhaps it’s being alone. I always ask for music I enjoy and never open my eyes. I actually wrote a story about an MRI to the tune of The Beatles, but I’m not sure if it was for Retrospect. There is amusing potential for such stories.

  8. You had me at the slide into the MRI coffin. I made the technician pull me in and out four times before they slammed all the machinery at me for ten hours, or what seemed like it. And I love the what-ifs, the other ways those of us who didn’t seek out photo booths, created similar evanescent moments. You also had me at the triple pics of you masked against something that looks like Giotto.

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