Monday, May 21, 2007


I often travel on my own, which sometimes opens up opportunities to chat with people or have experiences I probably wouldn't have if I were with someone else. You know the way it is: a lot of the time, it's far easier to approach one person than it is to go up to a pair or a trio or more.

One thing I notice -- and this started when I worked near Rockefeller Center in New York -- is that people find it easier to ask you to take a picture of them and their friends in front of some famous site or other. I don't mind doing it. In fact, I often volunteer my services as a photographer to groups of people so everyone can be in a photo together. I've gotten more confident about it with the advent of digital photography. Now I can look at the photo and know with certainty that they won't go back to Sweden or whereever and curse the American who cut off Uncle Bjorn's head in the picture at the Statue of Liberty.

Anyway, I thought this same thing was happening during my last sightseeing visit to San Francisco. I'd hiked my way across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, ending up at the scenic overlook where they'd thoughtfully put a parking lot and a souvenir stand. (They knew what they were doing when they built that bridge.) It was the last thing on my list of to dos in the city, and it was my last day on vacation, so I was feeling good, and accustomed to being asked to take photos for people.

So... I wasn't all that surprised when a pair of young Japanese men (boys, really) came up to me with a disposable camera and motioned to me that they wanted a picture. They pointed to each other and then to me.

Okay, no problem. I nodded and reached for the camera, and the one holding it shook his head no as the other put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me toward him. Oh boy. Before I knew it, my new friend was holding his other arm out triumphantly, giving a big thumbs up for the camera. The picture taken, they both smiled broadly and nodded their thanks. Then they walked away.

It all happened so quickly I didn't realize until later that at least one of them wanted to look as if he was, uh, successful on his trip to the States. Probably now half of Nagoya thinks he got lucky with this red-haired American woman. Unless, of course, his friend gave me the same photo-blunder fate as I once feared would befall Uncle Bjorn at my hands.

One can hope.