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Never thought a cop would be asking me questions during ‘Viewfinder’ assignment

Bobs Column - The B SideEvery other week, I perform one of my many responsibilities for the Reporter. I head out, camera and notebook in hand, to complete “The Viewfinder,” a man-on-the-street question that we pose to five regular folks. We print the answers to the question along with the photo, name and hometown of the people who are nice enough to participate in both the Reporter and Regional News.
It’s not always easy. There are times when one person after another refuses to participate. Heck, some just walk past me without breaking stride, saying something or another about not being interested or having enough time.
That’s OK. I’d rather they take part, but I can’t make them. I just move on to the next person. Other folks are happy to answer. In some cases, they subscribe to the Reporter or the Regional. They stop, listen to the question, come up with good answer and pose for a photo. They ask when their photo will appear and seem genuinely pleased that they were selected.
Still other folks are willing until they see my camera, and that’s when they decide not to be part of our weekly feature. It’s frustrating, I’ll admit, to have someone volunteer a great answer only to become camera shy. Again, though, I can’t force them to participate.
That’s where Mary from Evergreen Park comes in.
I encountered Mary last week at Lake Katherine Nature Center in Palos Heights—my favorite place to do “Viewfinder” since the weather has warmed. Mary had a great answer to the question: “What are your favorite summer activities?” She said she enjoyed coming to Lake Katherine and talked about what a gem it had become since it was turned into a nature preserve.
But when I pointed my camera at Mary, she turned her head away. I snapped a photo, but it would have been unusable. I asked her to pose a second time, but she refused. Then she got a little skittish, asking for my name and identification. I did not have my press card, but I told her to call my office if she had any concerns. She said she didn’t and again asked for my name before walking away.
But Mary’s concerns must not have subsided because she called the Palos Heights Police. Several moments after speaking with her, I drove out of the parking lot and was stopped by a police officer who approached in his SUV and asked if I was taking pictures of people.
I explained who I was and what I was doing.
He asked for my driver’s license, called it in and apologized for the stress. We talked for a moment, and I recommended that he call my office to confirm who I was—a simple step Mary from Evergreen Park chose not to take. The police did call the office and the issue was settled.
I wondered for much of the day, what makes people like Mary tick?
If she was uncomfortable with participating, say so and walk away. If she was camera shy, say so, and walk away.
Instead, she allowed me to take a picture of the side of her head, walked away and called the police. What did she expect would happen? “The Viewfiner” is a ruse and in reality I’m some creep who prowls Lake Katherine with a camera? She could have called my office, but there’s no drama in that. Far better to call the police and make something out of nothing.
I get that these can be troubling times. I cover crime in six towns and see weird police news every week. Just read our police blotter and you’ll know what I mean.
But when did some people become so suspicious, so paranoid, so distrustful that everyone they encounter is a con man or villain?
Lake Katherine is a great place for walking or stopping for lunch and ideal for interviewing folks because there’s a steady stream of people there, most who are happy to chat. I’ve met some interesting people there.
Bill Moore, also from Evergreen Park, answered my question and we chatted about how he was told 10 years ago that he had only months to live. A decade later, Bill’s still around and loves to hike at Lake Katherine, the Little Red School House and Starved Rock. He thanks Jesus Christ for saving his life. I enjoyed my time with him.
My painter friend is often stationed at the picnic table near the entrance of Lake Katherine. He’s always working on another scenic oil painting that captures the beauty and essence of the scenery and wildlife. We’ve talked about this and that and he’s a regular reader of this column, which is always appreciated.
Two weeks ago I met some older men who hail from Ireland. They explained to me that Claire is the best county in Ireland. I defended Mayo, where much of my family comes from. We had some laughs and both participated in “The Viewfinder” Thanks, fellas.
Unfortunately, I did not have the same luck with Mary from Evergreen Park. But I won’t forget her. I’ve been doing this kind of work for more than 25 years and no one has ever found the need to call the police.