I had a bit of an argument with a complete stranger this afternoon. I was stood at the bus stop waiting to go into town to meet an old friend. There were some stickers for the British Movement on the glass panes of the bus shelter. As the name might suggest, they’re one of those daft racist political groups. I whipped out my (new) camera and took a photo of one of the stickers.
I put my camera back in my bag, and was rooting around to find a pen to scribble out the Web site URL on the stickers. As I was doing this, I noticed a guy on a motorbike on the other side of the road. He was stopped, and looked like he was waiting for a gap in the traffic to go back in the direction he’d come from. When he moved, he pulled up in front of me.
My first thought was that he was going to ask for directions. He didn’t. He asked what I was taking a photograph of. As is human, several thoughts crashed through my head: is he a British Movementeer? is he gonna want to hit me? could I take him if we did get in a fight? (He was in his fifties and not particularly big, so, yes, I could’ve taken him. Unless he knew karate.)
I asked him why he wanted to know. He didn’t properly answer the question and asked why I was taking a photo of that bedroom. He gestured to the bedroom of the house that was beyond the bus shelter. I told him that I was taking a picture of the sticker, not the bedroom.
“Can you show me the photograph?”
“Because I think you were doing something suspicious.”
“Well, I wasn’t; and what business is it of yours?”
“I’m a prison officer.”
I snorted a laugh, and told him that that’s not a policeman. I mean, in hindsight I should really have pointed out that he might as well have told me he was a carpenter for all the authority his job has outside of the prison. He then said he was going to call the police. I’d found myself in a situation I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to back down and show him the photograph, but at the same time, him calling a policeman would be a great big hassle that I didn’t have the time or inclination to get into. And you know what policemen are like these days when it comes to people taking any sort of photograph in the UK. They seem to wave the terrorism card and get all shirty. So, childishly, I asked him to say please. He did, then I showed him the photo.
I’ve blacked out (err, blue-ed out, actually) the graphics, cos I really don’t want the British Movement’s image on the blog. (If you really do want to see what it says, here is the un-blue-ed version.) The bedroom he was referring to was right behind the sticker. And I’m rather thankful that I did something I don’t normally do when taking the photo: I turned on the zoom function which made the background nice and blurry.
I then pointed out that maybe he should be concerned that people in his neighbourhood have been putting racist stickers up on bus shelters. He told me was concerned, and the argument that we were both seemingly built up to really get into kinda fizzled out.
After he left, I had a go at removing the stickers which was surprisingly easy because they weren’t actually very sticky. Shoddy British workmanship, no doubt.