**If you're easily offended and generally close-minded, please jump to the bottom and read my disclaimer, first, hopefully, to absolve me from going to Hell in your mind for my anti-authoritarian attitude.
Well, it's a sad world we live in when photographing beautiful downtown structures from public sidewalks comes under scrutiny by anyone other than art aficionados. So my run-in with the self appointed director of our City's Terrorism Squad went something like this:
Sgt. Smith: (Stepping from his police cruiser leaving the Downtown Police Department Parking Garage) What are you doing?
Me: (Shoulders shrugged standing next to a camera on a fully extended tripod) Art?
Sgt. Smith (No response)
Me: Ohhh...you want the entire thought process...(Framing shot with fingers) well, I was going for the juxtaposition of the Verizon Building behind City Hall. I'm going for the feeling of big business looking over Government's shoulder. You know, back scratching, kickbacks, general corruption. I read about it all the time in your line of work as well. I was thinking, "Corporate Backing". What do you think?
Sgt. Smith: Are you a terrorist?
Me: (Wow, terrorists must be really taking pride these days in documenting their targets with good equipment. 'Picture comes out a little blurry and they lose a finger?) Me? No, I'm not a terrorist. I've been called a terrible artist, so that would make me a "terrartist", but certainly not a terrorist. I'm just not into blowing things up...except maybe in Photoshop. I'm one of those you might call "fruity" guys that doesn't have an AK47 collection stored patriotically in a hollowed out Hummel case. I'm into peace, love and harmony. Can we hold hands now and just be friends?
Sgt. Smith: What's your name?
Me: (Now things are getting a bit personal on his end. Oh, I get it; he must be interested in finding some more of my other work. I should just give him my website address.) Um...me?
Sgt. Smith: What are you doing here again?
Me: Taking a picture for my favorite website: joplinindependent.com. It's cool, progressive, and a bit controversial at times, but it's meant to provide a forum for thought and intelligent discussion to help better understand life in our world...as far as I know it isn't a front for terrorists sharing information about famous American targets...er I mean landmarks.
Sgt. Smith: joplin what?
Me: Never mind that. By the way, what's your name? And how do I know you're not a terrorist?
Sgt. Smith: (Thrusting his hip in my general direction ornamented with a tiny badge and a large revolver) That do it for you?
Me: (Suddenly I'm picturing myself being dragged back into a quiet recess and becoming the recipient of a good ol' fashioned prison guard beatdown.) Matthew Taylor...Mr. Authority, um Sir.
Sgt. Smith: Let's see some ID.
Me: (Uh-oh, this isn't going to help matters.....) Ohhh, yeahhh, well, I sort of left my wallet in the car. (Since I was worried enough about the safety of my camera, I thought I might need what little cash I had left in my wallet to start saving for a new one. Of course, I didn't realize Downtown would have such a warm and fuzzy police presence.)
Sgt. Smith: Where do you live?
Me: (Yes...fan mail. I always was envious of those teen idols who would get bags delivered to their doorstep, and then they would dump it out and then play in the big white mountain of love. Funny, he still didn't seem to be falling into the art connoisseur category. Too bad I didn't have any 8x10s of my work to sign and give him right on the spot. This is really kind of getting annoying....) Am I actually doing anything wrong?
Sgt. Smith: No.
Me: Then why are we even having this 5 minute discussion with a line of Police Department workers you've blocked in the garage, no doubt annoyed, waiting to get home and see their loving families or at least kick the dog?
Sgt. Smith: Don't you feel safer knowing that if you are, I mean, were a terrorist, I just may have stopped you from blowing up City Hall?
Me: (And up until then I actually had thought for a minute that I completely might have misjudged this guy.) What kind of electro shock did they subject you to in the Police Academy? Listen, I've already missed a better picture when a bunch of birds started circling the building like vultures and now they're gone. Can't you step back into reality, drop your conspiracy theory mentality, and let me go back to enjoying my hobby? Do I come down to your local bar and interrogate you--as you're hunched over your scotch and soda--all because you may have had a few too many and become "lewd and lascivious" with the guy over on the next barstool?
Sgt. Smith: How's about I go get a patrolman to come over here to get a full, extremely detailed report and no doubt take up a tremendous amount more of your precious time, while I go get my scotch and soda?
Me: (I sang like a bird. I even gave him my Grandma's information...sorry Grammie. More names and numbers than he could fit on his little pad.)
Sgt. Smith: Have a nice day :).
**The impact of 9/11 is not a joking matter. And neither is losing our individual freedoms. This was meant to be a funny take on a very sad problem, one for which this country may never agree upon in finding a solution. One thing I would like to get back to normal is being able to take pictures of landmarks, buildings and bridges without feeling weird or being scrutinized for it.
Let's get back to reality and get on with dealing with the other more important problems that plague our society.