Monday, March 28, 2005

The Sinister Man in the Park

The year: 2004. The place: A small park in Beverly Hills. The cast: Me and Jenna, my three-year-old niece.

Occasionally, I take her to play there. They've got slides and swings and ropes to climb. It's a decent park. On this particular day, I had my new digitial camera with me, and I was shooting some photos of Jenna. It was getting pretty late in the afternoon, and the park was emptying out. At length, we found ourselves in an area built to look like an old pirate ship, with a large steering wheel and the facade of a hull.

As I shot some more photos of Jenna, I suddenly realized that we were not alone.

Standing a few yards away was an attractive woman, about 30 years old. At first I barely realized she was wearing a policeman's uniform. She gazed at us almost admiringly, it seemed. Eventually she broke the ice by asking about our relationship.

At this point, I had not yet put two and two together. I introduced my niece, and told the woman a little about me, where I worked, etc. But after answering a few more questions, it finally dawned on me that her interest in me was not social. Someone, she admitted, had dropped a dime about the strange man in the park taking all those photos of the little girl.

"Is there a law against taking photos of my own niece?" I asked the policewoman.

She looked sympathetic. "No," she admitted. "But we get a lot of crazy calls. We have to check everything out."

I felt myself feeling a little resentful. "Well, you've done your job," I told her.

Undaunted, the woman proceeded to ask Jenna a few questions: Who she was, what my relationship to her was, where her parents were, etc.

It was humiliating.

I looked around the park in vain. Which of the dozen or so people still left had made the call? I wondered.

Eventually the woman asked to see my driver's license, which I produced for her inspection. Then she apologized once more and left.

The photos came out well.

But you know, I can barely look at them without thinking about that phone call, about the person making the call and how she was suspicious about the perverted man taking those evil photos of the unsuspecting little girl.

Better luck next time, Mrs. Busybody.

Has anybody ever called the cops on you for doing something that wasn't illegal? No, no, I didn't think so.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

That must feel terribly violating. It says a lot about our society where somebody would even consider calling the police because somebody was taking pictures of a family member in a public place. Completely innocent pictures by all outward appearances, so it wasn't like anything was going on to send up any signals. I bet there have been people who have called the police because they are disturbed by the father next door walking his daughter to the schoolbus stop every morning.