I don’t feel safe(r)
I chose not to comment about something that happened to me last week after class because after a good rant I was over it. I read an article today that put the events back in my head; now I have to share.
I have been trying to get a particular shot figured out with my camera: streaking lights from cars. Basically you take a picture where the shutter stays open for more than a second (usually like 5 or 10 seconds). I have a shot in my mind I want to take, but before I scout a location I wanted to figure out my camera. So last week it was a little after 10 and I thought I would take a picture from an overpass near my house. After thinking about there not being a close place to park, but it being just far enough I didn’t want to walk (I was lazy) I opted for another choice. There is an intersection that is well lit and has some decent traffic on it about 5 or 10 minutes from my home…I headed out to take a peek.
This intersection is where two five lane roads converge. One has a speed limit of 45 mph and the other is 35 mph…sidewalks on all sides of the road and street lights. Normally this would ruin the shot I was looking for, but I didn’t care too much because I wasn’t looking to produce anything with it, I just wanted to see what setting I needed for car lights to show up as a streak. So I parked on the corner in a oil change parking lot that has an entrance to both roads just shy of the corner. It was well lit so it was obvious my car was there and it wouldn’t look suspicious. There are just mini-malls, car dealerships, a few small sports bars and a super store (like Meijer, Walmart, Super K-Mart…a grocery store with everything else). No offices or anything like that.
I got out my tripod (less than 3 feet tall) and put my camera next to the sidewalk. I took 5 pictures with different settings, waiting for traffic to move before each shot. I looked at the 5 shots, didn’t see what I wanted and decided that it was too well lit for me to see if I was or was not getting what I wanted. I packed up and left…total time? 10 minutes tops.
I got in my car and pulled out of the lot on the road, waited to turn (long long light to turn left) and proceeded to head home. Just after I made my turn I saw head lights coming up on me and FAST! I thought I was about to get hit so I took my finger off the gas and just looked forward thinking I needed to watch the road…praying it was a cop and not a drunk driver.
Red and blue lights…a cop.
I pulled over into a strip mall and waited. It was getting darker so I turned on my interior lights just to make it safe for all of us. The officer asked for my license and I got it out politely telling him I needed to take off my belt to do so. While I got my license out I asked him if there was a problem. His response with a cold tone “we’ll get to the problem when I find out who I am talking to.” Very polite I said “okay” and handed him my license. At this point I am a little concerned, thinking “are my plates expired again? Shit…I hope my registration is in the car…and my insurance, damn did I put the newest one in here?” then I thought “WAIT…this is the first time I have been pulled over and NOT asked for my licence, registration and insurance…what…” the cop was back at my window. “Do you want to tell me what you were doing in the oil shop parking lot?” THANK FREAKING GOD I was not a smart-ass and my first reaction was a puzzled look and I said “uh…yeah, I was taking pictures [turn on the other interior light, tripod is on the floor and camera on the seat; pick up the camera] with my camera of the street lights for a project I am doing where the car lights show up as streaks on film and I needed to test the settings on my camera [camera turning on] I just took 5 of the same shot [scroll through the 5 pics] and didn’t get the effect I wanted. I just packed up and left after these. [holding the camera out the window] I thought that since I was in a public place, well lit and right on the sidewalk I would be fine. I used no flash or any lights at all so drivers would not be distracted.” He says “okay, wait right here.” turns around and I hear something and at this point I notice someone behind the car — I think it’s the owner/manager of the oil shop. Officer returns, hands me my license and says “you can go.”
Now, I stuck my head out the window and said “Thank you” and he didn’t flinch. I put my license away and I think to myself…”Just leave, just leave” but honestly I am pissed off. The officer was doing his job. I am okay with that. What I am not okay with is I did not get an apology nor did I get the typical police “have a good night.” Listen, I pay your f-ing salary and you just harassed me without apologizing for a misunderstanding. Jerk.
When I go to pull out of the lot I see the person that was behind my car…an older gentlemen that was on a motorcycle I saw stopped at a light. I saw him look at me and thought nothing of it. He called the cops on me…suspicious activity. Now, let’s get the fact out in the clear: I had a hairy hairy beard last week I had been growing out without shaving as a tribute to Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France (whole diff story) – where am I going with this? I am not Arabic, but with a full intense black beard I look like I am Arabic and I have had trouble at the US/Canada border before when I have my beard. Had my last name been something middle-eastern sounding I am pretty sure things could have been much worse for me. Why do I say that?
Read the article that pissed me off today…
[sniped from: Independent Press Association]
Colored? Carrying a camera? Banned in New York
By George Joseph, India Abroad, 24 June 2005. English Language.
Taking photographs in New York City can be dangerous, especially if your color is brown.
Rakesh Sharma, a filmmaker from India who captured the violence in Gujarat in his film Final Solution, learned it the hard way. His crime: taking photographs of taxis, pedestrians and buildings around Park Avenue and 39th Street in Manhattan around the Metlife building.
Full article: IPA NY Voices That Must Be Heard @ Independent Press Association
Maybe I should call the cops when I see someone on a motorcycle and say they look like a scary biker gang member and I think they just robbed a store or did something horrible because they ride a motorcycle.
I love America and I am one of the last you’ll hear bitch-and-moan about things here. I don’t get vocal about the war on terror, the war in Iraq or political issues unless it’s the time in my eyes for me to say something. I’m not going to do it now either. What happened to me was NOTHING. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time…if the guy on the motorcycle could even see my beard he has amazing vision because I was not that well lit up to look Arabic – I just looked like someone sitting on the ground at 11pm. I’m crying over a stupid apology from a cop; it’s pathetic of me. However, in the case of Rakesh Sharma [man in article] and the complaints against NY police treatment, there is nothing pathetic but the officers that were involved. To me THEY are terrorists.
To bold of a statement to make? Maybe. I don’t have a solution for a better way to find out who is good and who is bad. Innocent people will get caught up in the mix. I don’t have a solution for solving terrorism. Most likely we can only hope to limit it; conquer it doesn’t seem possible (at present day). However, I feel comfortable saying: what we are doing now doesn’t seem like much of a solution to me; it seems like we are just adding to the problem.
“When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.“
Oscar Wilde; An Ideal husband, 1893