So many of my pet peeves really do find their roots in personal experience.
I was walking up Broad Street last week, right by the New York Stock Exchange. This part of New York offers an interesting mix. There are plenty of professionals dashing from one meeting to the next, traders from the exchange (identifiable by their jackets) outside for a chat or a smoke, tourists with their cameras out the ready and even the occasional street preacher.
In a hurry, I was darting up Broad to get to the Wall Street subway station. I was short on time and patience. It’s not laudable, but it does happen. And as usual, I found myself running the tourist gauntlet so I could catch a train. One unfortunate soul stretched his arm out in front of me, camera in hand, and asked me to take his picture. I sidestepped his arm, declined and kept going.
Once I got on the 3 train, I had time to reflect on the experience. Many of us have been on both sides of that experience. We’ve been tourists looking for a helping hand, and we’ve been busy locals, trying to get from Point A to Point B with minimal headache. It’s mutually frustrating … and it’s just part of life and travel.
While we’d all love to encounter polite locals, sometimes, we do need to be realistic. Not everybody is going to be in a position to help. The first step is to know which people to leave alone when you’re looking to create a memory. Here are four locals to leave alone when you want someone to take your picture for you:1. The busy professional: if you see someone walking quickly and with a focused look – dressed in a suit or not – let him go. He has someplace to be, most likely, and it’s only polite to respect his time. You don’t know what’s on his mind or where he’s going, and while you may want your picture taken, that doesn’t translate to an obligation on his part.
2. The person who won’t make eye contact: this person may be (and probably is) avoiding eye contact for a specific reason. He doesn’t want to get roped into your Kodak moment. This behavior may be a bit rude, but again, the fact that you need someone to hold your camera doesn’t translate to an entitlement.
3. The busy parent: a parent who has his or her hands full really doesn’t need something else to worry about. Show a little respect when mom or dad is trying to deal with the kids. You can wait for someone else to walk by. Really, you can.
4. The homeless guy: trust me, you can do better holding the camera yourself.
When in doubt, look for another tourist to help you. This is what I did at Abbey Road in London – we scratched each other’s backs, so to speak. Or, you could bite the bullet and invest in figuring out how to work the timer on your camera.
It doesn’t hurt to be reasonable. Sometimes, people really are too busy to help you.
[photo courtesy of IR magazine]