[ From the Archives of 365 ]
Saved by Francis The Key Guy
Take one middle-class Caucasian man, dressed him like a college golfer; put him in a very diverse Spanish-speaking park; place a camera around his neck, and put some paperwork in his hand. Then have him loiter around the teen center – at night mind you. Sound suspicious? Perhaps?
I was not thinking too soundly on this one. The saving grace was my wife and daughter by my side. Gave me a bit of credibility. All except for the golf club my sweet little child kept swinging in the air (really she was just practicing her drive – golf industry look out!).
We spent a good hour approaching people. All very gracious, but none taking the offer to be photographed. I begin to notice a consistent through-line, a common tendency for people to slowly gain distance. Subtle things like a tree between us, or a wall, and one of my favorites, a car. The bottom line, no one wants to come near me. In retrospect, I did look pretty creepy.
But the story gets better. It’s 8 pm now. Kids are slowly leaving the park. Beginning to release the area as the rougher evening crowd slowly appears. Lights will be shutting down soon, and with my tail between my legs, and a commitment to return at a later date dressed a bit more appropriately, I make the call to move my family to the solace of our car.
We approach our assigned doors and look at each other no differently than usual. You know, that… You have the keys? look.
You got it! Keys safely secured as they dangled behind the steering wheel. Doors locked, safe, and sound in the vehicle. We are just that kind of family, always planning ahead. And truly, I can see no better stop-gap to auto theft than to lock the keys, and of course my wallet, securely in the car
Now here we are, no photos, no wallet (no better place than in the glove compartment), and $10,000 of camera equipment in my backpack. By the way, even the locals keep their eyes peeled around these parts, and being the only guy in the whole park wearing a bright blue beach shirt, I’m looking more like a target the darker the park gets. Standing in bewilderment at the fact my family and I are stranded out of our bright red Accord.
Gary Larson’s Far Side comic series strangely comes into my mind; specifically one of two deer talking – one with a target on his chest. The other dear says to him, “Bummer of a birthmark Hal.” And that’s right, tonight, I’m Hal!?!
But no need to fear, my daughter steps up and boldly states, “Don’t worry Daddy, I’ve got a golf club.” Wife does what wives do — brings the common sense back into play, grabs the cell phone, and thirty minutes later arrives Francis, the Diamond Security man of the hour. He steps to the rescue, car door picking tools in hand and cell phone on shoulder. Literally, 2 minutes and the door is open. He turns and peels out a clipboard. I numbly sign and begin to watch him fade away towards the driver’s side of his truck. My gut tells me he is my photo opportunity and I can not let him get away.
With the glooming possibility of failing to get a photo on day four of a one-year challenge, and the clock rapidly ticking away, I rush this savior of the moment in a sprint of determination. He terminates his phone conversation and looks at me with a straight face of inquisition. I tell him what I’m up to, he thinks, looking much like the rest of those I’ve approached this evening. My mind starts to boot up in preparation for another failed attempt. A little desperate as I begin thinking of the next possibilities. Funny how much can flash through your mind. A fact proven as I visualized myself elsewhere. Maybe the pharmacy up the street, a polka club, Pizza Hut, or throwing myself into oncoming traffic to just photograph whatever happens. That way at least I’d have a good injury story to support the fact that I tanked out on day four.
I force myself to shut the nutty thinking down and look back at my new friend Francis, who with an approving nod of acceptance redeems my efforts as he accepts my invite. I’m telling you, I owe this guy big time.
So, if you ever find yourself in Canoga Park, night falling, and keys safely locked in the car. Just pick up the phone, call AAA and ask for Francis at Diamond Security. And remember, tip him well!
11:16 pm now. Seems I made my midnight deadline. Tomorrow is a new day. See you there my friends.