Thanks and welcome to all the readers who joined me after seeing my previous post on Freshly Pressed. My goal is to post at least once a week. I hope that you enjoy my scribbling, and know that I enjoy your comments as well!
When I first drove past Watkins Glen, I puzzled over the name. It sounded so familiar. But why? For several agonizing minutes, I had that brain itch that occurs when a piece of information is just out of mental reach.
Then I saw a billboard with a race car on it, and I realized that of course Watkins Glen annually hosts a NASCAR race. (There was a period–mostly influenced by my little brother–when I watched quite a bit of NASCAR.)
Turns out that Watkins Glen is also home to a breathtaking state park. A few weekends ago, I packed a picnic and Jesse and I set out to explore.
The park has a stream that cascades over a series of nineteen waterfalls while winding its way through a gorge. After fueling up on my Thai-ish sweet potato salad, we descended to the gorge trail . . . and promptly became part of a human traffic jam.
Having finished teaching in mid-June, my brain was not exactly on a work-week schedule when I planned our excursion. It hadn’t occurred to me that on one of the last weekends before school starts, parents would be out with their children in droves.
Which was great. What an awesome, wholesome, healthy family activity.
. . . except that I saw Jesse clenching his jaw and I knew that the crowded trail was making him tense. The future flashed before me . . . will we ever have kids? Will we ever be able to afford kids? Will we ever be ready to let our schedules be dictated by small human beings of our own creation?
The answer is not until we both have graduate degrees . . . which will be another five or six years.
One bespectacled boy was displeased with the crowd as well. “I’d rather be at home reading a book,” he grumbled.
When at last I saw the reason for the traffic jam, my irritation matched Jesse’s and the little boy’s.
People were posing for pictures underneath the waterfall.
Now, I like taking pictures. And I like posing for pictures. And I’m sure at some point or another my act of taking a picture and/or posing for a picture has annoyed someone nearby.
It just seems that we as a society don’t know where to draw the line. When your photo session prohibits all the other families (and childless 20-somethings) from proceeding along the trail (we were in a rocky gorge, after all) then I think you have crossed the line.
This has become a pet peeve. Another example of when it might be inappropriate to take a picture is when you’re standing in the Louvre in front of the Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world. Particularly if the gallery is so crowded that people are pushing and shoving to get a glimpse of her.
My concern is more than mere etiquette. I worry that if I am taking pictures just to have evidence that I saw neat stuff, then I am not really present in the moment. I love to travel, whether it is to South Asia or to a nearby state park. But all the energy and money expended to arrive at an awesome destination are wasted if I frantically take photos to document my journey, only to get back home and not remember a single thing about the places whose images I digitally captured.
Like any other piece of technology, a camera can either enhance or detract from my travels. It is up to me as the user to get the most out of it. When I try to photograph the afternoon sunlight on a medieval church, then my effort–however amateurish– helps me appreciate the beauty of the centuries old architecture, makes me wonder whether the parish priest appreciated it in just such a light, eight hundred years ago.
Or if I stand patiently, waiting for a butterfly to land on a flower, hoping to snap it with its wings open. Taking a picture makes me value the delicacy and energy of one of the world’s most beautiful creatures. Especially when it taunts me, dashing off an instant before I get the shot.
Or even if I take a picture of a rushing waterfall, continuing the slow process of carving a gorge . . . as long as I’m not blocking the trail for dozens of other visitors.
Question of the day: Am I being a total grouch, or do you also get frustrated by the misuse of technology–in the hands of yourself or others?