Take one middle-class Caucasian man dressed like a college golfer; put him in a public park; place a camera around his neck and paperwork in his hand. Then have him loiter around the teen center—at night, mind you. Sound suspicious? Perhaps.
I was not really thinking too soundly on this one. The saving grace was having 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 began 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. Bottom line, no one wanted to come near me. In retrospect, I did look a little creepy.
The story got better. The night crept to just past 8pm and kids were slowly leaving the park, beginning to release the area for the rougher evening crowd. Lights were shutting down soon, and with my tail between my legs after many a rejection, and a commitment to return at a later date dressed a bit more appropriately, I made the call to leave for greener pastures. We approached our car and looked at each other no differently than usual. You know that, You have the keys, right? look.You got it! Keys were safely secured, dangling in the ignition behind the steering wheel, doors locked, safe and sound inside the vehicle. We are just that kind of family… always planning ahead; and truly, I could see no better stop-gap to auto theft than to lock the keys, and of course my wallet, securely in the car.
Now there we are, no photos, no wallet (no better place than in the glove compartment of a locked car, right?), and 10K of camera equipment in my backpack. By the way, even the locals kept their eyes peeled as the night came on, and being the only guy in the whole park wearing a bright blue beach shirt, I was really starting to feel like a target. Standing in bewilderment at the fact my family and I were stranded out of our bright red
Accord in the midst of what seemed like a sea of much less bright cars. Gary Larson’s Far Side comic series strangely came into my mind; specifically the one of two deers talking, one with a target on his chest. His buddy saying to him, “Bummer of a birth mark, Hal.” And that night, I was Hal!
But there was no need to fear, my daughter stood forward and boldly stated, “Don’t worry Dad, I’ve got a golf club.” Wife does what wives do—brought the common sense back into play, grabbed the cell phone and thirty minutes later Francis arrived, the Diamond Security man of the hour. To the rescue he stepped, car door picking tools in hand and cell phone on shoulder. Literally 2 minutes and the door was open. He turned, handed me a clipboard with paperwork to sign. As I watched him fade away towards the driver’s side of his truck my gut told me he was my photo opportunity that day and with that feeling I could not let him get away. The possibility of failing to get a photo on day four of a one-year challenge was looming and the clock was rapidly ticking away. I rushed this savior-of-the-moment in a sprint of determination.
He terminated his phone conversation and looked at me with a straight face of inquisition as I explained what I was up to. He paused. Thinking and summing me up much like the rest of those I approached that evening had. It appeared as if I was about to receive yet another failed attempt to befriend a stranger. Preparing for a long night of searching, I visualized myself elsewhere. Maybe the pharmacy up the street, a polka club, Pizza Hut was in order, and if that failed, maybe I was supposed to simply throw myself into on-coming traffic and just photograph whatever happened. That way, at least, I would have had a good injury story to support the fact that I tanked out on day four.
It’s funny how many crazy thoughts can zip through the mind in a nanosecond, and at that moment my mind was taking me to strange places. I forced myself to shut the nutty thinking down and looked back at my new friend Francis, who with an approving nod of acceptance redeemed my efforts. I’m telling you, I owed this guy big time.
So, if you ever find yourself in Canoga Park, night falling, and keys locked in the car, pick up the phone, call AAA and ask for Francis at Diamond Security… and please remember, tip him well!
Talk tomorrow my good friends,
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