Quiet Weirdos in Public

[Special Note from Jodi: A friend sent me this link over the weekend.  I had no idea this picture was taken.  I do read this person’s blog but don’t know her so I’m kind of stoked that she paparazzi’d Roan and me.  Check it out here.]

Quiet Weirdos in Public

I got an interesting email this weekend.  A story about trying to do the right thing, when the right thing to do could be a little dangerous, a lot scary, and isn’t actually even all that obvious if it is the right thing to do. 


It begins this way:


“So I was on the train today going into the city and a few stops on, some people got on including a guy about 40-45 or so and a girl anywhere from 17 to 22 (it’s hard to say) she had on jeans and a jacket & scarf and lots of eye shadow, but not too different than any other young Spanish girl. The guy sat next to me – she sat across from us. He had a new iPhone and I glanced over -I thought he was watching a video. Turns out he was taking a picture of the girl. I was really uncomfortable about it and I stared at him with a scowl on my face. He turned and looked at me and started playing with other features of his phone.
I was steaming and I didn’t know what to do, he kept staring at her and I thought “It’s not illegal to take a picture, but WTF, why was he taking her picture (umm, yeah)?!? I knew I would be mad at myself if I didn’t say anything and if he got off after her, what then?”


Let me ask before you read further: what would you do?  Think of your answer before you read on.  Do you confront him, do you warn her, or do you remain quiet and scan the news later that night for the resolution of the story?  Clearly this guy is creepy as hell.  But do you intervene? Should you?


She goes on:


“We got into Manhattan and he put on the camera again. He sneakily held it up to take her picture and I said, very loud ” Do you know her?”  She looked at us and he quickly turned off his phone. I said “Why are you taking pictures of her?!?” He said “I’m not, who the [redacted] are you?” and I said, “You’re a [redacted] pervert, get off the train!!!” He said “No way!” and I took his picture – he waved and smiled for the picture and said – “Here what you want MY picture for?” I said “To give the police so you are a known pervert!” The girl told the guy “You freak get the hell out of here!” he wouldn’t go. I screamed, “This guy is a pervert!” – and pointed at him. He sat there and I was shaking.
The girl thanked me and we acknowledged that no one else seemed to care and she got off the train. I got off at 6th and he did too but went the other way. As soon as I got off the train, I called [my boyfriend] and sent him the picture in case anything was to happen.”


I think it’s easy to read this from the safety of my couch and imagine the things I would have done.  I’d like to say that I would have helped to protect the girl in some way.  It probably would have been a less aggressive way, because I’m scared of weird men. Truthfully if Roan were with me, I’d have done nothing.  If I were alone, I don’t know.  It’s possible that I still would have done nothing and chalked it up to self-preservation. 


But I do respect where this reader was coming from, and what she was trying to do.  She’s not self-righteous about the event, and knows that it could be that she shamed an innocent guy.  She asks at the end of her email, “What if… just what if… I was wrong? And I screwed that guy’s day up real bad?  I am still angry and I know it’s silly… what do people do in that situation?”


I don’t know the answer.  Do you?  What if the girl being photographed was your daughter/wife/sister?  Does that change your answer?


45 responses to “Quiet Weirdos in Public

  1. Personally, I never take any body’s picture without permission. It’s just not right. Besides, what would happen if that young lady objected loudly or worse yet, violently. Could be a movie script. Hmm, I think I’ll start writing my first screen play! Thanks for the idea, Jodi.

  2. I think that your reader had a large amount of courage and tenacity! I would like to say I would have done something, but I probably would have been too scared. I don’t think she should feel at all bad about her decision, the guy should know that its’ not right to take a random person’s picture! She did a good thing…just think how she would have felt seeing that he harmed that women on the news or something equally disturbing! So kudos to her! Thanks for sharing!

  3. No problem – make sure to send the royalties check ASAP!But yeh – I agree with the picture thing. Except what’s interesting that I didn’t even put together until now is that the link I put up at the top was a picture taken of Roan and me without permission. I guess I could be upset but my feeling is it all comes down to intent. The guy on the subway likely didn’t have the best of intentions. The woman that photographed Roan and me did have good intentions. Interesting.

  4. I agree Courtney. What she did took more courage than I think I have. I agree that she shouldn’t feel bad at all, because she was trying to help. Again, her intention was good. And she didn’t have a lot of time to think about different options. Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. Asking first whether he knew the girl was smart. It’s so easy to make assumptions when we really have no idea what’s going on. However, it would’ve been interesting to see how the guy would’ve responded if the e-mailer had not called him a pervert but had instead talked calmly to him about the situation– perhaps asking him how he’d feel if some stranger took pictures of his sister or girlfriend on the train.As I get older, I find myself speaking out more and more in sketchy situations. Half the time, though, it’s not really bravery, it’s my thoughts coming out of my mouth before I can catch them. I’ve had many a “Did I really just say that out loud?” moment recently that I’ve then turned into righteousness 😉

  6. Oh man Kali – I have the same things happen to me. I wish for a “rewind” button after some of the things I hear myself say. Still, sometimes the first instinct is the correct one, and the filters are off for a reason.

  7. most people would say she is a loudmouth and keep out of situations. I hope more people don’t keep quiet

  8. I’m not sure how I would respond to the situation you described above, though most certainly I would behave differently if I had my children with me than if I were alone. I do have to say, however, the picture posted on the other blog of you and Roan is such a serene and peaceful image.

  9. Well, I don’t know. From the situation, it seems obvious that he was not taking the photo with good intentions… So I would like to think I’d say something. However, I don’t agree with those above me that said that they don’t think it’s okay to take random people’s pictures… I mean, what about photographers? I love photography, and I think sometimes when you ask…. Well, you just don’t get as candid a shot as you would otherwise. I mean… Jodi, at the top of this post, you have someone snapping your shot unbeknownst to you, and that doesn’t seem creepy or weird. So where, exactly, is the line in the sand where it becomes strange?I totally agree that this guy was a perv, though. I mean, if you were a serious photographer, you’d have a real camera to use, not an iPhone. So there’s that. iPhone pics of random people? Hmm… not ok without asking.

  10. HA!Me too sister. Speak up people!

  11. Thanks Donna – I like the picture too!I guess when we’re with our kids the priority of keeping them safe trumps everything. I’ve kept my head low a few times when I probably would have spoken up in the past. I don’t regret that, but I do mourn the loss of moxy I used to have.

  12. Jaden – You know I feel like the timing of these two things arriving in my lap at the same time was serendipitous. I truly didn’t realize the connection that you pointed out until after I had posted them. I think again that it’s about intent. I should mention that the owner of the other blog contacted me today and offered to take down the image. Of course I asked her not to….I really like it. And I don’t feel like it was a violation at all. So, to your point, I think you’re right on. There’s a line. People need to respect that.

  13. I work at an athletic club part time – and we had a situation where one member reported another for taking unauthorized pictures of a third member. The member who reported it was really upset and we all agreed that they did the right thing. Of course this person did not actually confront the offender. I’d like to think I would have said something but I think unless I was in the situation I don’t actually know. However, I probably wouldn’t have drawn that much attention to the situation especially knowing that the guy could just get off with me and then it could really turn ugly.

  14. I think that your reader was absolutely right — and absolutely ballsy. I don’t think I would have had her courage, though I wish I did.Jaden wrote about photographers and candid situations and this is what makes sense to me: If you’re a photographer and you see a candid situation that you want to photograph, then do so, but promptly approach your subject(s), show them the picture (if digital), and ask permission to keep it/ post it. I guess if it’s not digital and your subject asks you to destroy it, that would be an honor system, that you’ll destroy it/ not print it after you’re done with the roll. As for stealthily taking people’s pictures? Out of the question.That picture of you and Roan is absolutely lovely.

  15. The photos of you and your son, given the angle, seems like you are the subject. The iphone photos as described appear to make the young woman an object. That would be one difference in my mind. I would like to think that I would be conversationally confrontational, and point out that I was taking his photo and sending it to someone for the “in case scenario”. But really? This is the sort of thing that freaks me out when I think about it and why I am here on the prairie with lots of acres around me with only two other families living in this square mile. I know not everyone can live like I do. And I know I cannot live like so many of you do. I admire you so much. Stay safe!

  16. Geeeez man I’m starting to get creeped out by all these stories. I think that’s a much easier situation, right? If there’s someone to tell, let them deal with the anger/embarassment, then it’s not on you.I still really wonder what I would have done. I can’t come up with an answer that seems honest.

  17. I have to mention here – because there seems to be a consensus that stealthily taking people’s pictures is creepy – unless it’s a somewhat anonymous looking thing, like the one the lady posted of me on her blog – I have to mention that I have a friend who is constantly hunted by photographers who stealthily take pictures of her and her child. Then they sell them to magazines and internet sites.Why don’t we rise up and say that’s creepy too? It’s a widely accepted thing to do, but no less of an assault. Just thinking here….

  18. Hey Sue!Sounds like a nice place you have there. Any room for guests? We’ll bring a tent and mosquito repellant.Anyway, I think you’re right about the difference between subject and object. Makes sense.

  19. As a photographer, I learned very early to get the model’s permission and carry release forms with me. I always ask if I can take and possibly use the photos I take. I always get a release signed if a specific person is my subject. I have been turned down more than I can count, but most folks don’t mind. The bottom line is the guy was probably a perv. Not necessarily a dangerous one, but you never know. I know there is a big difference between taking photos with a camera vs. a phone. As the father of young children, I would have done the same thing she did.

  20. Hi there. Just thought I’d let you know I tagged you in a little meme on my blog. If you get a chance, stop by and check it out, and then participate if you’d like!

  21. I try to model doing the right thing for my kids (picking up a dog in traffic and finding the owner who didn’t know about the escape from the yard, turning around to give a teen we know a ride home when she was walking on a cold day, blah blah blah) and I’d like to think I’d have done. . . something. I don’t know. I don’t like confrontation. Maybe I would’ve moved across the aisle to warn the girl? And, I think the paparazzi stalking celebrities and, especially, their children is down right frightening. I don’t need to see those pictures nor do I want to.

  22. Followed links from Thurs Night Smackdown over here, so sort of an interloper…And does it reveal that I’m not a mom when I say…big deal?As long as the guy was not masturbating on the subway in the girl’s presence, who cares? Taking a photo of someone does not in fact steal their soul.It sounds like the girl didn’t even notice the guy was taking her photo until the anecdote-teller made a big scene. If the girl had never known, she wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable. That’s why I think Jodi wasn’t bothered by the swingset photo–she presumably didn’t see the person with the zoom lens peeking through the playground fence at her and her child. Which is a creepy-seeming scenario looking at it from outside…but obviously led to no harm done. And, hey, I have that same hoodie vest!Speaking of which, the guy probably was taking a picture of her for future…reference, but on the other hand, maybe he just liked her style? I know I’ve taken quick snaps of people on the subway for the same reason.I think a quiet, dry, “Dude, _really_?”, with an arched eyebrow, is about all anyone’s entitled to say in a situation like this. Public shaming should happen only when you are certain the person’s doing something shameful.

  23. This is my first time on the site too but feel compelled to voice my agreement with Zora. It seems to me the narrator was way overreacting, with her “you’re a pervert!” yelling schtick. I mean, yeah it’s a little intrusive of the guy to take the girl’s pictures surreptitiously and my guess is that he’d whack off to them later, but really you’re going to throw a shit fit on the subway over it? It doesn’t sound like he was doing anything actually perverted, like photographing up her skirt or down her shirt, etc. Yeah it’s a little creepy that he’d take her picture, but it’s just a picture. I don’t see how it’s creepier than a guy obsessively staring at you on the subway. I mean, that’s not my favorite experience in the world but you give him a “stop staring, jerk” look and get on with it. Comes with the territory with living in a city. More than anything, I’m bothered by of the “you’re a disgusting pervert! i’m going to tell the police on you” attitude and the “he’s a dangerous perverted guy” subtext of the post & people’s comments. Sure, he’s a creepy guy, but dangerous? Wha..? This all just sounds like tremendous overreacting to me & a too-quick instinct to turn on the fear impulse.

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