Editor’s Note: NYC Dads Group member Jason Duncan recounts a recent incident that begs you to answer the question: How would you react if someone who didn’t know started snapping photos of your child in a public setting?
On Friday, I threw a guy out of the New Tots Playground in Central Park.
My daughter and I got to the playground around 3:30 in the afternoon. It was a fairly ordinary day. It was sunny. It was pleasant. It was a little warm for October. Everything seemed to be as right as rain (even though it wasn’t raining). The playground was populated as playgrounds tend to be, with children and parents and wealthier parents with full-time (possibly even live-in) nannies in tow. And there was one other person.
A man with a camera.
A tourist, without a child of his own, but with a telephoto lens.
Taking pictures of kids in the playground.
I noticed this almost immediately and found it strange. Turns out, I don’t like strange.
As I put my beloved Effing Offspring in the swing which she’d requested, I thought (or rather, started to think), If that guy turn his camera on—but I was unable to finish my thought as he turned and looked at us and our swing and brought his camera up and pointed it at us, and I fucking lost it.
Through my rage memories of the moment in question, I seem to recall briskly walking toward the guy and saying something along the lines of “No! Do not take a picture of my kid! Never take a fucking picture of someone else’s kid! Do you even have a kid in here?!”
I remember that he said that he did not.
“You’re not even supposed to be in here without a child! Get out! I want you out! I want you out now! Get the fuck out of here!” I recall him saying something in a heavy accent along the lines of his being sorry, and I recall saying something along the lines of how I didn’t give a shit. I reiterated again that I wanted him to vacate the premises and, albeit slowly, but without taking any additional pictures, he waved his girlfriend over, who’d been sitting off to the side for some reason, and they left and walked over to Sheep Meadow.
After that, the play in the playground returned to normal (as everything had abruptly stopped during all my yelling and carrying-on), and my daughter and I were then largely ostracized for the next hour we spent at the New Tots Playground.
The following day, after running into the friend who was supposed to meet us, and telling her the tale, she said, “Do you think they ostracized you because you overreacted?”
But, did I overreact?
Harsh language, sure. But creep with camera trumps harsh language, right?
This same friend also wondered, “What if it was all innocent?” Just a tourist taking photos of American children like they were zoo animals. Yes, what if it was all innocent? But, what if it wasn’t?
What’s the best-case scenario here? He was just some amateur shutterbug weirdo taking unsolicited photographs of strange children without asking permission or stating his purpose. That’s the best-case scenario? If that’s the best-case scenario, what’s the worst-case scenario?
The worst-case scenario, of course, is unthinkable.
So, did I overreact?
My wife has stated that she’s a little relieved I didn’t get arrested after, at best, throwing his camera to the ground and stomping on it, or at worse, shoving it down the guy’s throat. (But, in all honesty, on the second count, I wouldn’t even know how to go about such a thing.)
All in all, I was feeling very much like Bjork in the airport several years ago when a journalist shoved her camera into Bjork’s stroller to get a shot of Bjork’s new baby, and Bjork went beserk and tried to rip the woman’s head off. I recall at the time that Bjork got some bad press for this. Now, as a guardian of a human child, I can’t say why that was. (If you don’t remember this incident, I am fairly confident it’s on YouTube.)
So, like the press thought of Bjork in the airport, and as my friend has also implied, did I, indeed, overreact?
Frankly, I’m a little hard-pressed to say that I did.
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Jason Duncan is a full-time stay-at-home-dad, writer, blogger, fly fisher and terrier owner. He writes the humor blog My Effing Offspring, where a slightly different version of this post first appeared.