I was tired; maybe fatigue is a better description. I’d been on the road for almost three weeks and I’d been up early every morning chasing the sunrise. I was barely one-hundred miles from home but there were a few more photos yet to be made. After gassing up in Cameron I headed south on highway 89 and a few miles later turned into the Wupatki/Sunset Crater National Monument. There was one particular place I wanted to photograph with my infrared camera.
Wupatki/Sunset Crater is two national monuments. The northern section contains the Wupatki Anasazi Indian ruins and the southern section contains the extinct cinder-cone volcano, Sunset Crater. Entering the Monument from the north I headed directly to the Wukoki Ruins, a ‘great house.’ I had in mind to reshoot a photo I’d shot years before, but this time in infrared. The shot was from the western or backside of the ruin and I knew exactly where I’d have to stand to get the shot. Since I was tired and lazy, I parked close and made a brisk walk to the ruins and around the backside to the vantage point I’d previsualized. I stepped a few feet off the trail and squatted in the shade of a large boulder, aimed my camera, and waited. And waited, and waited. There were a couple of loud-mouth, morbidly obese tourons in my shot. I thought, instead of retouching the people out of the photo, I’d just wait for them to leave, but they were moving slow and talking really loud. I could hear their southern accents two-hundred yards away and now the fat cow was talking about me.
“Look! That guy’s off the trail!” she exclaimed in her dumb-sounding southern drawl. “He’s off the trail! He’s off the trail! The sign says ‘stay on the trail’ and he’s off! He’s breaking the rules; he’s not supposed to be there!” Her tone indicated she was clearly distressed by my horrible, off-the-trail transgression. In her view, I was a huge asshole.
Shut up and move along, you cow, I muttered to myself as I waited for a clear 1/250 of a second to take my photo and get going. Now she’s pointing me out to her fat friends. Gee lady, get over it and move along, as soon as you move, so will I. I was tired and in no mood for idiot tourists all cheesed-off about me being a few feet off the trail.
Finally she waddled out of frame. I took the shot, bracketed a few exposures and was done. Two minutes of photography after waiting fifteen minutes for the people to get out of my shot. I made a brisk walk back to the ruins and on to my car.
When I got back to the ruins, loudmouth hillbilly-lady decided she needed to accost me about my off-the-trail rule violation. Why do people think they can bitch me out with impunity? Do I have a face that says I’m harmless and won’t mind getting yelled at by non-authority figures? Do I look like that much of a wuss? The next thing I know she’s hollering at me:
“Can’t you read the signs, you’re off the trail, you’re breaking the rules, you can’t do that!” she went on and on and on.
I listened while losing patience. I don’t have time for this and you’re not a park ranger, lady. When she finally shut her giant pie-hole I decided I really didn’t need to explain, no, I’d just give it right back to her. I was tired and hot and ready to be home and had no time for idiots like her. Since she’d already decided I was an asshole, I might as well be one.
“Madame,” I began, “I can tell by your accent you’re educationally disadvantaged, so I’d like to teach you a new phrase…” I paused for dramatic effect, “…Bite Me!”
I do believe she immediately fell ill with ‘the vapors.’ “Why I never…” she muttered.
Then her even more morbidly obese husband got into the act. “Nobody talks to my wife like that, I ought to kick your ass!” he yelled at me.
Really? I thought. You assholes are going to do this? “Ah! Kick my ass? Is that how you people solve your problems?” I asked the husband. “If you can even run down here and catch me you’d better bring her boyfriend too, Bubba.” I taunted the fat dude I knew I could outrun.
They stood there and just sputtered and fumed, like the fat pissed-off assholes they were.
I continued on to the parking lot, got in my car, and drove off towards Sunset Crater. I’m sure it would be at least another half-hour before their toothpick legs could transport their bulk to their car with the sacked-out suspension.
Really, is that shit necessary? How unpleasant. And, despite the so-called rules, it’s none of their business.
If you’re one of those color-inside-the-lines and always-follow-the-rules types then the fact that I was only a few feet off the trail won’t matter to you. But most folks are more reasonable and most smart folks don’t care. It’s not up to the tourists to enforce the rules. Park Rangers enforce the rules and being a Park Ranger has been more about law enforcement for the past thirty years than naturalism anyway, so let them do their jobs. There is no need whatsoever to accost a stranger who’s caused you no harm or inconvenience. Let it go. Or go get a Park Ranger. Besides, what if I had been a psycho-asshole and really kicked the guy’s ass? Would it be worth it to him then?
I guess I just look like one of those guys who is easily intimidated. They had no idea of what an effective defensive weapon a tripod is….
I’m pretty sure I made an impression on those hillbilly assholes. As for other impressions, well, I didn’t even leave a footprint on the ground.
So bite me!