So I’m sitting in the van in the parking lot at the local B&N, waiting for my son to come back. He’d gone inside to see if they had a particular book he was looking for.
My lumbar region was enjoying the radiant warmth from my heated driver’s seat, and I was enjoying just sitting – doing nothing much at all. The front edge of a storm was moving in, and so were the grackles. I had noticed the other day that they were back from wherever grackles go in the winter. Dinnertime at the mall is a Hitchcockian affair in the spring, with no tree left unoccupied. I’m guessing your average Bradford pear tree will sleep 30-40 grackles, all crackling and popping to each other in a sort of communal who’s where report that lasts well past dark.
Anyway, it looked as though those grackles who were a bit late making reservations at the mall had to move up the road just a wee bit to snooze in the 3-star trees between ToysRUs and Ulta.
Having long ago learned that photo ops appear in their own good time, I had my trusty camera on the seat next to me. I’d already had it out a couple of times earlier in the day. What intrigued me now was the way a relatively heavy grackle can perch at the very top of a pear tree and stay stable while serving as a virtual weathervane for any who care to watch.
I pick up my camera, shoot a few frames, decide the light will be better if I reposition myself, drive around the parking lot to reverse my angle, and settle in for a little photo moment.
Pretty soon, here comes someone from B&N, obviously an employee, looking a bit trepidatious but walking directly for my van. I smile and wave.
She walks boldly up and says, “Hi, I’m Susan. I’m the manager for this store.” Then she stops, reluctant to proceed with what must have been a carefully rehearsed inquiry.
“Hi, Susan,” says I. I keep taking pictures.
She squirms a bit more, then says “What are you doing?”
I laugh. I’d already figured out that she was bothered by my sitting in front of her store taking pictures. “I’m photographing the birds,” I respond, and point at the grackle-heavy pear trees. Her eyes follow the line from my finger to the trees. She sees the birds, probably for the first time. and shakes her head. “Why?” she asks.
“Why not?” I think to myself. As elusive as the answer may be to my new friend, Susan, it’s equally obvious to me: “Because they’re so goofy,” I answer. “I love the way they all come together in the night time; they’re careful, but not neurotic. ”
Silence… suggesting that Susan the store manager couln’t really think of anything to say.
I filled in for her: “Would you like me to take a picture of your storefront signage with birds on it?”
It worked – she laughed, and said, “Sure – we could use it for Edgar Allen Poe Day!”
Me: “IS there an Edgar Allen Poe Day?”
Her: “With a picture like that, we’d need one, don’t you think?”
We both laughed. I thanked her for her vigilance, handed her a business card and told her to eMail me if she wanted to see my pictures, and she went in.
So what was that about?
The world we live in now grants us very little privacy….everything has gone digital and online….try though we might, it is very difficult to keep our personal lives to ourselves. So why would anyone care if I sat in front of a store and took photos? Is it because there is a certain anonymity in the pervasiveness of our universal publication, and we can only maintain that anonymity if there is no face to go with the name? Surely it’s not that she was concerned that I was some kind of stalker or terrorist – even at my fiercest I’m pretty harmless looking. But we are conditioned to fear that which we do not understand, and most people do not understand why anyone would sit in front of a store and take pictures of birds.
More’s the pity.