Saturday, February 14, 2015

The End of Privacy

I was at the grocery store Friday afternoon waiting in line to check out and I noticed some dork taking pictures with his smart phone. I don't know what specifically he was trying to photograph, but it appeared to be the displays, the end caps, though really, didn't look like anything worth photographing.

My paranoia meter was on high alert when I realized that I may have been in the background of one or more of his pictures.

Was he targeting me? Taking pictures of other things as a cover for the true objective of getting my picture? Who knows. Either way, I don't like it. In fact, I was so disturbed by it that I decided to be a narc and report the suspicious behavior, after all thieves are known to photograph credit card numbers, and the coveted pin, it has been known to happen. I don't know if that's what this weirdo was up to, and I do emphasize weirdo, probably younger than me -- though keep in mind I easily look ten to fifteen years younger -- but bald and short and somewhat fat, wearing baggy shorts, polo shirt, baseball cap, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to Jared Laoghner. And if you don't know who that is Google it.

Anyway, I decided to report what I saw to the nearest costumer service representative I could find, but by the time I got back to where I was to show them, dude totally disappeared. I think he knew I was on to him. Me giving him the evil eye. I think I was the only one that noticed what he was doing. People are strangely inattentive waiting in grocery store checkout lines. I guess they have a one track mind, that of, paying for their stuff, and getting the hell out. I usually am too, but today, I was on high alert.

Anyway, it troubles me that my image, an image I have not approved, may be circulating on some dorks smart phone, or worst case scenario uploaded to the Internet somewhere, doing who knows what with it. One consolation is that I make a regular habit of wearing a hat out in public, obscuring my appearance somewhat, but still, the thought that people may be taking my picture without my knowledge or consent troubles me to some degree.

There's that time I was riding my bike waiting at a red light at a popular tourist highway, and a truck making a left turn in front of me had a huge telephoto lens sticking out of the window, and I'm likely in their picture. And that other time riding my bike through ranch country and yet another telephoto lens surfaced, no connection I'm sure, yet still, there is a strong possibility that I have been photographed by strangers. That doesn't bother me so much, what bothers me is when people are doing it more on the sly, indoors, in public places, using less obvious methods, such as smart phones and tablets, acting like their texting, or reading, when really their taking your picture, or worse making a video clip and recording your speech. I hate that shit. Makes me feel powerless and vulnerable in all the wrong ways.

I generally don't photograph people, and by people I mean strangers out in public, simply because it feels somewhat wrong, like I'm invading their privacy, particularly if I don't ask permission, though I do understand and appreciate that there is a certain art form to it, street art, such as that made famous by the website and book "Humans of New York", but being an actual photographer and taking pictures with an actual camera for artistic purposes, seems less invasive than covertly doing it with a smart phone while you're waiting in line at the store. Okay, I can't say that depending on the circumstances I wouldn't ever do it myself, but I guess if you are going to do it, don't be so obvious about it. In other words, don't get caught, because if you do, especially if you aren't very good looking, you're going to look like a weirdo creep that just might get your ass kicked one of these days by a less understanding person.

I'll be keeping my eyes wide open, looking for this person, or any sign of any other persons photographing me, and will be watching them like a hawk. Not sure what I'll do. Maybe I'll do a celebrity freak out, and bust out some moves, destroy the film, or I guess in modern digital usage the memory card. Okay, maybe not. Surely I'll be more diplomatic about it. But for now, I will just watch, to see who is watching. To see if a pattern emerges. If this was just a fluke, or a more frequent occurrence, as in a potential real life stalker.

A reader of the blog? No! A local reader of the blog? No!! The whole world shatters. I cannot have these two worlds come together. It's like that one Seinfeld episode, where George's girlfriend wanted to become one of the gang, to hang out with Jerry and Elane and Kramer, erasing the once coveted emotional buffer zone. Uh, yeah, I'm sure I'm overreacting. But still, I don't much like to be photographed, wouldn't make a very good model, especially if I'm being photographed by someone I don't know and their being secretive about it. I hate that shit more than anything. Which is yet another reason why I would never want to be famous.

If I ever write something really great, and I get a lot of exposure, becoming known by millions, I'll have to retreat into obscurity, becoming a recluse to the best of my ability. Hat and sunglasses are my best friend. Yeah, that is the only way you'll see me here from now on, through the lens of pix-elated camouflage.


del said...

Sometimes competing stores will send someone into a competitor's store to "comp shop" their sale prices. That's probably what the guy was doing, taking photos of the endcaps and such so he didn't have to fool with a notebook like in the old days. They can get banned from a store if they get caught, which would explain why the dude made himself scarce when you tried to report what he was up to.

But, like you said, could've also been a creep trying to get pictures of other shoppers. Weirder stuff has happened...

Cym said...

Yeah, that would be the logical assumption, but I tend to go with my gut instincts about things, and I was definitely not getting a corporate spy vibe from this guy, looked more like someone who would be living in his mother's basement.

Also, if it was only about photographing the displays, he was going about it from the wrong angle, wasn't really positioned in a way to best isolate the products, he looked more like he was taking in the whole scene where he would be sure to get people in the background too. Of course, with a zoom lens it's hard to tell, but that was the impression I got, that if you were photographing an end cap you would be pointing the camera away from people not toward them. That's what roused my suspicion.

What troubles me is that I know he got me. I looked in his direction and for a split second I see a phone which was pointing my way quickly lowered. He than proceeded to act nonchalantly, walking back and forth behind all the check out lines, photographing a few other areas, but kept looking back my way, probably to check if I wasn't watching him anymore, and then I leave to get a store clerk, which he probably saw me doing, and he disappeared.

Either way, I'm going to be watching for this guy, see if he's a regular that maybe I've overlooked, and see what he's up to. It's just a bit of wake up call that I'm not as invisible as I had hoped, that people I never even knew existed may be watching. And I know that sounds paranoid, but what if it's true? Not going to worry myself about it, but I am going to be ultra vigilant in paying attention to my surroundings, watching for this sort of thing to happen again. Yeah, it was a good learning experience, and that's why I wrote about it here. There may still be further lessons to be gained from this, that I'll probably write about in the near future.

Thanks for the feedback, helps to dispel the feeling that I'm talking to an empty room.