The darkroom is not pitch black. After you've been in there for a while, you feel like you are seeing everything and it's almost hard to believe that you can take your photo paper out, change the filter in the enlarger, slide the paper in, press the button for the timer and not have the whole paper go dark in the developer tray as a result of what seems like all that light.
The last two nights I've been in there at the very end, tonight my last print dried at 9:32, and the darkroom closes at 9:30. After everyone is out of the last tray of chemistry and into the first wash, time set for five minutes in your head, and all your black plastic sleeves of photo paper are shut up tight in boxes or envelopes, they turn on the lights in the darkroom, and it's a surprise what light looks like.
Plenty of things are still black, but other things are yellow, lots of things in there, it seems, are yellow. Red too. It's a shock, really, when you see them turn the lights on. You can understand how it all seems black, but isn't.
In the real darkroom, the film closet, I always catch myself closing my eyes. It is pitch black in there. A little closet, with black walls, a black wastebasket, a pair of orange handled scissors tethered to a waist high counter and an ordinary can opener tethered there too. The can openers are for prying the lids off your film canisters, and the only one that really makes it easy, for some reason, is the one in closet three. It's also the only one that isn't tethered to it's counter, so I'm always tempted to steal it. The rooms get warm and a little claustrophobic though, so doing anything to make anyone else at all cranky just doesn't seem like a good idea. Mostly, I leave the good can opener where it is. I've been told that the door to film closet three comes open even when you think you've got it closed, and I have had enough film accidents for one quarter, so I don't use closet three even though it's can opener is the best.
What is it about closing your eyes in the dark that makes prying those little lids off seem so much easier?