Silly Grins

Monday, April 2, 2012

Digital Vigilance

There are not photos in this post.

Cherry blossoms can be beautiful, especially early in the morning when no one is around. Those moments of serenity are most calming. 

When the crowds show up, sometimes things can get a little out of hand. Fortunately, the other day, everything went well for the most part. Families, friends, groups of coworkers... the usual kind of crowd. 

For the most part. 

That other bit is what bothers me. Not the fact that someone wants to take photos of cherry blossoms or even the people. You see, it's just when you've got kids that you tend to lock on to certain people who kind of show up alone. Call it a bad vibe or even paranoia. 


I let my kids play, but I never let them out of my site. Okay, never out of my sight on purpose; there have been a couple of times I can count on two fingers when the fog of parenthood had gotten in the way. The kids know by now. Dad is an asshole. It's a fine balance.

The seasonal viewing of the cherry blossoms almost started out on a very bad note. Almost. 

You see, an older man seemed a little over-interested in taking  photos of three unattended kids that were playing close by. That not right kind of feeling was there. I thought the guy looked like he was used to kind of hanging out at parks. I never used to notice this kind of thing until it was pointed out to me. Yes, there are people who frequent play areas specifically looking for unsuspecting kids and out-to-lunch parents.

While culture in Asia is rumored to be good to children - "like in Italy" some have said - there are still times when I think rules of proximity apply. 

"Excuse me ma'am. Do you know that man who just took pictures of your kids?"

Judging by her tone and reaction, she didn't seem to see anything wrong with what had gone on.
"They thought he was their grandpa..."

"Ma'am, I don't think it's a good idea." Forget what else I said exactly, but I think she realized that she might want to keep a better eye on her litter of three.
 We talked a while as our kids began to play together. And I noticed that he was keeping his distance. A signal had been sent and I was fully prepared to let him know that he would not be taking any pictures of my kids. Even at his current distance with that zoom lens, nodding, yes... I am looking right at you and there are no cherry blossoms in our direction, yes... walk away... good, no, I am still looking at you while not blinking.

Okay. Fair enough, it was a weekend and the trees were in full bloom. And there were plenty of people out and about with cameras as would be expected. But everyone was there with friends,family, or coworkers

Hell, maybe the guy missed his grand-kids or something. However, he did seem to pick up on the message that I was intentionally broadcasting to his channel... which kept him at bay. He sort of decided to go somewhere else and actually appear to take pictures of some too-cute poodles a childless couple were taking for a sniff and pee in the latest canine vogue. 

Wifey, Grandma, and Grandpa were given a brief status report when we got back to the blue tarp for snacks. Without having to go into detail, they understood. 

The lone camera man was in the area till an hour or so before lunch-time when he wondered wandered off. Other than the yip-dogs mentioned earlier, he didn't seem to want to take pictures of anything or anyone else.  

Maybe it's just a cultural thing, these assumptions we make in how we think older folks normally act toward kids.  



  1. My wife never noticed the people staring at us when it was just the two of us. Now we are three she picks it up even more than I do.

    It's easy to see behaviour as normal until it's pointed out that it's not. Trouble is, more-often-than-not my concern is brushed off (by others, my wife has learned the hard way) as 'not understanding Japan' or similar.

    I many ways I don't, but I do understand that. Obviously better than you do, madam.

    1. Your wife never noticing when it was just the two of you... how romantic.

      Getting stared at and even called names is no big deal, usually. Wifey has been asked 'politely' where she's from on several occasions, which is pretty funny considering the fact that she's more or less indigenous here. She's been mistaken for local in Bali, Korea, as well as several countries in South America... but this isn't really about her or me.

      While older folks really do benefit from being around youth, there's something that just didn't seem right. I'm willing to accept that I might have been a little hyper-sensitive. And I'm more than willing to be wrong on being perceived as over-protective about something like this.

  2. You didn't go overboard and you acted instinctively as a parent would...

    I've never been a parent, but I imagine when it comes to being protective, some primal instincts are involved and most people understand that.

    1. I once found myself in a situation that was purely circumstantial. Had I not heard the story of a young man who put up no resistance while enduring a beating for trying to save someone's life, things could have turned out very different. So, yeah, fortunately most people do apparently understand those primal/parental instincts.

  3. It's creepy. I am really conscious of not taking photos of kids without the parent's permission (eg. when they all done up in their kimonos or soemthing) because I think it's wrong. Plus if the kid is all dressed up and looking cute, the parents are usually flattered when you ask.

    At our local swimming pool in Aus, they have a 'no cameras without permission' rule. My friends were complaining that they had to get permission to take pics of their own kids but I see the sense in it. At least there is some control.

    1. What concerns me is how 'no big deal' most people are about it. The guy didn't ask and the mom was somewhere else.

      At least asking permission is a good idea. People aren't props.