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Chased by a mall rent-a-cop and his tax-paid bodyguard

Updated on December 22, 2012

Today was a very interesting day

It began with my breaking of our nice washing machine. That comes under the heading of bad ideas. Actually, it was my bride's bad idea to allow me, the clumsy one, to go near her remarkably useful laundry apparatus. In went a notably-sized pile of mixed clothing – dirty socks (from walking around in them with no shoes), assorted scrubs (the most comfortable clothing in the world), a heavy bathrobe (maybe two of them – I forget if there was just one or was it two) and other things sufficient to fill up the machine to its top. In with the water, the soap powder, and smelly stuff from a big plastic jug. Around and around went the big propeller thing in the middle. And then, whappo! It all came to a screeching halt and never moved again. I had to rinse the soapy water out of the stuff using water from a hose and the big bucket we use to mop the floors. Fun and games.

Travel in style if at all possible

Next came the adventure of exploring my friend Rod's new travel trailer and his new suburban to be used for towing the thing here and there. Turned out that he had not yet had his breakfast – nor had I, so fast had I tried to get away from the abundant wrath of the real owner of our washing machine. So that was next on the list. Coffee and eggs at Denny's. Had to beg for a spoon with which to stir the coffee (too hot to permit stirring with a finger), but that deal was otherwise uneventful.

Rod and his trailer then took off down the road towards his home, and I rolled along in the other direction, both of us acting as though we were on important missions. Mine was actually to get some gasoline, for the fuel gauge in my old pickup truck was sagging down near “empty.” That taken care of, and finally reasonably awake and alert, I decided to head on over to the “PlazAmericas” to see if that old shopping center contained anything worth photographing. (I always have my little camera hanging from my belt - right next to the folding barbecue knife.) This time, because of Rod's new travel trailer, I had packed the old Sony Mavica camera and tripod along, too.

I was, as the old saying goes, “ready for Freddy.”

Mauled at the mall

I pulled on into the huge parking lot at the PlazAmericas and drove up to park in the front row before the main entrance. I set up the tripod, screwed the Mavica camera onto its camera plate and, just as I was about ready to start snapping pix, two uniformed people wandered over to where I was cheerfully working on my pictorial tasks. One was a mall rent-a-cop, an older fellow of geriatric persuasion, and his companion was a female constable, complete with a bright metal badge and a serious-looking pistol - of lethal persuasion. The mall rent-a-cop asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was about ready to snap some photographs of the mall buildings so that I could construct a panorama picture. He told me that making photos of the mall buildings was not permitted.

Well, that mystified me somewhat, for the doggone buildings were sticking out of the ground right in front of me, big enough for anyone but a sightless person to see – not only from where we were standing, but from the now faraway street, too. That did not impress the fellow at all. In fact, I think it confused him quite thoroughly.

He then told me that I could make photos of the mall only if I received permission from the mall manager.

Mismanaging a call to the manager

“Piece of cake.” I thought.” I asked for the manager's phone number. He rattled off a phone number which I entered into my handy-dandy cell phone. It was a wrong number. He then hauled out his own cell phone and punched in a number. He handed his cell phone to me and, into my left ear, came the sweet, but authoritative, voice of the manager lady. I inquired about the rule concerning a need for permission to shoot photos at the mall. She was in the middle of explaining things when, suddenly, the constable gal interrupted with the need for her and her mall rent-a-cop to race to the other end of the mall to stop a fist fight (or something akin to one) that had just then started to disrupt commerce in that part of the PlazAmericas. I couldn't hang onto the mall rent-a-cop's cell phone now that he had to bug out for some common mall fisticuffs, so I gave the phone back to him and packed up the camera and tripod and headed out to the street edge of the PlazAmericas.

The PlazAmericas - a panoramic photograph made from the sidewalk outside of the mall
The PlazAmericas - a panoramic photograph made from the sidewalk outside of the mall
Individual photo frames from which the panoramic photo was constructed
Individual photo frames from which the panoramic photo was constructed

It's hard to trespass when you are on a public street sidewalk

The truck stayed right there at the parking lot edge, and I went over a little strip of grass to the public sidewalk. That's where I set up the tripod and the Sony Mavica camera. I was very familiar with one of the “rules” of photography: If you can see it from public property, you can make pictures of it, even if it is private property. The fact is, there are no laws against photographing anything other than things that have to do with safety, national security, and so forth. There are laws that control what a photographer can do with his or her photos, but other than for security and military situations, have at it with snapping those camera shutters.

Some interesting things I learned about making photos

When I got back to the safety of my little home office, I looked up the regs. What I learned was mostly that there are virtually no laws of importance to casual photographers like me that serve to tell when and where folks can make photographs. I came away from my brief study of such things with the conviction that a person can photograph almost anything. However, if the photographer wants to do so when inside of private property, the owner or manager of the property can tell the photographer to stop or to not begin making photos. The owner, manager, a mall-rent-a-cop, and so forth, cannot make the photographer erase any photos already made, or give up the camera, or roll of film or the little flash memory card. They cannot prevent the photographer from leaving the premises, nor can they threaten the photographer verbally or get physical. All they can do is to watch the photographer leave the premises.

To show off or to not show off, that is to be decided

That is what I did. I left. Outside, on the sidewalk, I turned the camera onto the mall buildings and made five photos with which I constructed a very good panoramic photo of the mall. What I have left to do is to decide whether or not to print it out and carry it over there to show to the manager and, if I can pull him away from a fistfight, the mall rent-a-cop who accosted me in the first place.


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