I’ve been called a lot of things before, but never “creepy.”
My education in childhood interactions started this week when I made a gentle recommendation to say thank you to the guy that runs the kiddie coaster at Six Flags. Those polo wearing people stand there all day in the hot sun calming nerves, securing seat belts and monitoring the runaway monster kids who insist on cutting back through the line. I think it’s nice to offer a kind word of thanks. I love good manners and am really working hard on not interrupting because I’m bad like that.
I’ll admit, it may have been too much when I stopped a man in a cut-off tank as we were leaving the park.
“I’m sorry, sir. There has been a recall on funnel cakes and I’m going to have to confiscate that.” He stopped momentarily and then smiled when he figured out I just wanted his food. When I noticed it had the strawberry topping instead of the powdered sugar and syrup, I changed my mind.
That was when the lecture/debate/argument began. “Maybe you weren’t taught to not talk to strangers, but now she’s going around talking to everyone.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a stranger,” I said.
“I’m sorry if you have a problem with me wanting to keep my child safe.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think we should sow fear into children. They need people skills growing up.” They need to know how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand and hold a conversation.
The hot sun baked our brains I guess and we were not going to come to an agreement. I knew the situation would only deteriorate if talking continued. The super fun day ended with a loud slam of the luxury car door and a whole lot of silence in between. God help us.
Saturday morning I woke up with an excited energy to participate in all of the activities going on around town. Usually, I have open houses on the weekend but decided instead to follow up with a few fun things to write about like the Hill Country Optimists Bike Club Rodeo and the free book giveaway the Kendall County Democratic Women were having for kids at the library.
I had some homes to see later in the day and put on my RE/MAX name badge, the one with the balloon and fake sparkly diamonds. Earlier in the week I had a nice meet and greet with Randy at the Hill Country Weekly. I forgot to ask for detailed instructions and in my child-like mind, I thought it was pretty simple.
Write stories people want to read.
For 13 years I lived in Mason, Texas, a tiny Mayberry-type town where Gerry, editor of the weekly paper, would go around snapping pictures, shaking hands and talking to people. I’d seen him do it for years. He was the smiling face at every event. He was the guy that all the kids wanted to have their attention.
“Take a picture of me!” they’d yell. “Take a picture of me!”
Papers flew off the shelves and out of the racks because everyone wants to see their picture on the cover. Parents and grandparents buy those issues up in multiples.
With my newfound excitement, I set out to have a fun day. For many years now, I’ve been attending children’s events and often I forget all the new adult rules. Quickly, I was reminded not to take pictures without parent permission. And just as quickly, I wanted to go home and skip the whole thing. Most days I walk around with a low-grade headache because I can’t keep track of it all.
But I really wanted to write a few stories, so I shook it off, searched for a some friendly faces, and began taking notes, shaking hands and talking to people. Several parents came by with their adorable kids on bikes and I asked, “Would it be okay to take a picture?”
“Yes, of course!”
I made my way over to the library where children were just coming up to me like they sometimes do because I’m sort of like the Pied Piper without the pipe, rats or bad intentions of luring children. Anyway, I was talking to a lot of different people and got side-tracked by a girl holding a beautiful pop-up picture book of houses.
Okay. Seriously. I sell homes. I love all things homey and house related and was totally captivated by the 3-D pages of this picture book.
I asked where her parents were and if I could take a picture. She gestured to her dad who was standing right next to her but in a conversation with another parent, but of course, I didn’t want to interrupt. Instead, I snapped a quick picture of the book and okay, maybe a part of the child’s head and said I’d be back.
“We have princesses over here,” one of the volunteers came to tell me before I had to leave quickly for my next appointment.
In the parking lot, I saw the pop-up picture book girl with her family. “Oh, great! Can I get your name? I’m writing a….”
“No! You may not!”
“Are you kidding?” I sincerely couldn’t tell. I have friends and family who joke like that all the time. “You’re kidding right?”
“NO! I AM NOT! I don’t appreciate you taking pictures of my child!”
“I’m so sorry. ” I tried to explain what I was doing but he was loading up the hatchback of his shiny black Nissan and his wife just looked away from me and I only had 4 minutes to get to my next appointment, so I apologized again and left.
Driving across town I thought of the conversation I had at Six Flags and people’s right to protect their children. That’s when I began the self-talk.
Okay, okay. Don’t be offended. He has a right. He was looking after his family. Grrr…But it’s the way he said it. Calm yourself. It was a misunderstanding, I should have handled it differently. I just get talking and having a nice time and forget all of the rules. Maybe I should become one of those people that never, ever leave their home? My fricken head is killing me. I can’t function like this. He was so rude. There is a way you can talk to someone politely and state your concern. Oh, my God. Pull it together. Do not start crying right now.
I pulled up to the home I was previewing, waved “Hello!” to a friend across the street and rang the doorbell. Waiting for them to answer, I turned around to notice the over-sized front porch, pretty flowers, and wicker seating. “Super pretty,” I may have said out loud.
Just then, the black Nissan pulled up and out the window the guy yells, “Exactly why were you photographing my daughter?” He was still being rude and much louder than necessary.
“I’m also a writer. I was writing an article for the paper and ….”
Interrupting again, for God and all the neighbors to hear, “Do you just go around taking pictures of children without their parent’s permission?”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t planning to use it, I forgot to…”
“I think it is completely unprofessional and quite honestly, I think the whole thing was very creepy!” He sped off and that’s when the homeowner answered the door.
Personally, I think it’s creepy to jot down my license plate number and follow me all the way across town. It’s not like I was standing in the bushes with a dark hoodie, holding a Nikon with a zoom lens.
God help us.
I miss the good ole’ days.
Oh, I’m doing a Nature Craft with Kids on Saturday from 2-3 at the Cibolo Nature Center. Parents are welcome to stay and participate. I’m not sure yet about the picture policies.