Cops hate having their picture taken. I remember traveling through Lake Meade National Park near Las Vegas when my girlfriend was pulled over and given a four hundred dollar speeding ticket. To lighten the mood after the issuance, and after receiving directions to an In-N-Out Burger in the area, I asked if the officer would humor us for a picture with the snowman – he flatly refused, and went to ruin some other peoples days. I can’t think of anyone that hates having their picture taken more than cops … unless, of course, if we’re talking about military personnel.
Now I was casually sitting on the bus to Rabat, Morocco, waiting for our departure time, when I realized how great bus stations are for capturing the real viatlity of life in different places: the comings and goings of daily life, the crazy vehicles used to transport people and goods around the facility, and the color and excitement which makes places worth visiting. So, in my standard fashion, I set about working on the visual record of the Moroccan bus station.
There was this wild looking old lady who was driven in on a motorcycle with what essentially ammounted to an oxen push cart mounted to the front of it: two big side wheels, old steel frame and wooden boards to comprise a flatbed for moving things. If that was not enough, the driver was himself looking pretty darn awesome, sporting some wicked-thick spectacles that really created quite the character.
Then there were some other cool vehicles speeding around, either in the general contraption of the thing or in the color and style of the decorative trimmings. I also tried to capture the general ambiance of the scene with some grand wide shots, which did it all justice quite nicely, if I do say so myself.
Well the bus got moving along and all was fine and good, until this guy in a tan uniform, official looking hat, and sunglasses, sporting some stars on his shoulder jumps on the bus and starts pointing at me, saying something in Arabic. My new pal, Mr. Denim, sitting next to me says that the guy wants to see my camera. Whoops, looks like some of my general ambiance photos might have actually contained theGeneral Ambiance. He takes my camera, but instead of looking at it, he heads off the bus. I stand up, initially in protest, only to realize that the General had no intention of leaving with only my camera. I, too, was soon in towe.
I get one hand on my camera, which was fine with him as he wanted both of us, and he moves away from the bus – which still had my bag of worldly possessions in the storage area. I make note of this in a frantic gesture and he points and shouts something, and the bag is removed from the bus. Now, me being white, he starts shouting at me in French:
Why you take pictures!?!?! What’s your nationality? Where you come from!! POR QUOIS? POR QUOIS?!?!
Frantic as the moment required, I try to answer his questions with both politness, urgency, and trying to be as calm as I can muster under the circumstances. Not wanting to wait for him to figure things out, I turn the camera on and start going through the pictures. I try and explain that I will delete them, erase, no more, photos gone, ok? I show him the photos I took and do my fastest delete by individual photo by photo I can do: showcasing just how applicable the skills honed through years of retail digital camera sales are to the role of International Man of Mystery.
As I began going through and erasing the photos with police or military persons in them, or the vague hat, appendage that wandered into another shot, I soon realized that not only did he not like me taking photos of him and other law enforcers – he had issues with me taking pictures of random people in general! Assesing the situation I ramped into “clear out all pictures from the bus station mode,” showing him each and clearing it in front, adding in a “ok gone,” with each flash of my hands across the camera buttons.
I got everything delted and a photo fo Khalid from the night before came up. I scrolled both forward and back showing they were all gone, following up with a “sorry, I didn’t know,” to help ease future judgement. To my general shock, however, his mood flipped faster than someone with bi-polar disorder when he saw all the pictures were gone. He caught me totally offguard: he smiled a big old smile, laughed and said “ok,” waving me towards the bus.
And that’s the story of how I almost got thrown into a Morrocan prison for the rest of my life earlier today, but still manage to catch my bus to Rabat in the process.