Public photography: It could have been a lot worse.

By , 16 December 2007 13:53

A few weeks ago, I was travelling the city by public transit. I got into a snit about some uncivil behaviour and decided to take some action.

This is my story:

I boarded the bus at Broadway & Cambie heading south. I walk to the back and notice some papers strewn around two of the side seats. I don’t think anything of it, its a Saturday night. I sit down on the third and as soon as I do, I notice that there is a mess on the floor too. I get up just as the bus driver says: “If you don’t want to smell like what’s on the seat, you better move.” I moved the temporary bus stop sign so all three seats are now covered.

Bus#1 - 24Nov07

What peeved me is that there were five people sitting in the vicinity of this seat. So, I expressed my frustration and said out loud: “No one could have told me about this? Thank you for your consideration.” I sit down on the opposite side.

We’ve travelled to 12th Avenue.

Between 12th and 16th Ave, I get my camera out. Usually, I turn my flash off in public places but this time I did not. I take a picture of the mess above and two more. The third shot is of a couple sitting in the area [who said nothing] getting off the bus at 16th Avenue.

Bus#2 - 24Nov07

Here is where things get interesting. When I take the second picture, I hear a man’s voice expressing surprise. After the third picture is taken, I feel the camera being grabbed from my hand and the wrist strap breaking. As he is doing this, he is saying something like “Some people don’t like their picture being taken and this what happens when you do that.”

Okay. The man is standing there with my camera is in one hand, a paper bag in the other. I can tell he wants me to grab for the camera, so we can have a scuffle and he can smash it. I take the opposite approach and say loudly and clearly:

“Give me back my camera and I will erase the image.” He freezes. What can he do? I have given him exactly what he wants.

I repeat my request three times – even guy beside me says to give my camera back. The bus driver is saying “Whatever is happening between you two, take it outside.” Finally, he says “I don’t believe you.” then “Get off the bus” His stop is also my stop. As I look down to make sure I have everything, I noticed the syringes on my lap and on the floor. They weren’t there before. Great.

We’re at 19th Avenue.

We get off the bus and he hands me my camera and I try to turn it on. The lens is extended and there is no power.

“It’s not turning on. If you broke it, there’s nothing I can do.”
“I didn’t break it.”
“I’m checking the batteries. I’ll take them out and put them back in.”

The battery case is empty and I say: “When you grabbed the camera from me the batteries fell out. There is nothing I can do” and I put the camera in my pocket.

There are a few more words and he walks away.

Most disturbing to me: other people got off the bus at the same time we did and no one stopped to watch how it would resolve.

I get home and have a drink. The next day I look at the image and laugh.

Bus#3 - 24Nov07

He is behind the pole. Would he recognize himself?

Yes, I am very lucky. People have been killed for less.

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