Found: Camera and the kindness of strangers


I had been staying around my house for weeks. I had not been out to any public event since the end of August. I had done a number of small household projects, and was as my habit, I did some photography of the processes, but even those were done with little zeal. I was thinking I really needed to get out and participate in some activity.

I had contributed some of the photo documentation of my adventures to the Twin Cities Daily Planet, “an experiment in participatory journalism, built on a partnership between professional journalists and individual citizens.” With that historic connection, the editor included me on an e-mail list of possible stories. One press release that caught my attention was about local Tibetans protesting President Obama’s statement in China. It was to protest/highlight the fact that President Obama, in his recent visit to China, made the public statement: “We recognize that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China. A first such statement, for any U.S. President.

The Bush/Cheney administration was devastating to me. I have been fighting both political and financial depression for the last nine years. With the election of Barack Obama, I have been recovering somewhat from the insane political situation that had overtaken my country. There is still plenty to correct, but at least there is some hope. So I was not so sure I want to be among those criticizing the current administration. But in reading the various linked documents from the Tibetan supporters I came across this statement; “I don’t think there is a need to rethink the path of non-violence, but definitely we need to rethink about the path of so-called dialogue with the Chinese government.” (Tenzin Choeying, President-Students for Free Tibet November 18 2009).

I can support paths of non-violence, and I do think that the current administration is not above critical analysis, and so I decided to go to the protest. I might be able to aid the Free Tibet non-violence cause by assisting in getting their message out to the readers of the TC Daily Planet.

I was reconsidering the decision to leave my warm dry house as I walked through some gentle but chilled rain to the bus stop. I got on the bus and rode to downtown Minneapolis, a trip I have made many times. I have been comfortable riding the bus for many years when the weather or season discouraged bicycling. Near my stop I strapped on a waist water bottle belt, which had my camera case attached, grabbed my knapsack, tripod, and rain jacket, struggled to rise, and dismounted the bus. It was still drizzling, so I set the tripod down, swung on the knapsack, and pulled the rainwear over it all. I picked up the tripod and walked off to the protest.


I approached the protest site, across the street from the gathered people — a good position for an overview first shot. So I ducked to a sheltered spot and extended the tripod. Unbuckled the waist belt and discovered no camera bag! That was a sinking sensation. I quickly checked the knapsack, and all my gear again. Panic! I shrugged back into my gear and retraced my route, not at all knowing how the camera case come off, and I felt positive that I would have felt it fall off during the walk. My hope lay in possibly discovering it where it had dropped.

But this was downtown Minneapolis, and even with the rain, many people were on the street. And sure enough I retraced to where I had dismounted without coming across the dropped camera case. I once more double-checked my possessions, and resigned myself that it was gone. I returned to the protest, about a five-block walk, taking the same route as before, trying as I might to figure how I had dropped the camera. I walked through the assembled protest group but did not stay. I was rather distressed.

The four-and-a-half year old camera is not worth a lot in monetary terms, but it has been a trusted and constant tool, and I am not in a financial position that I can easily replace it. The gloom I was in was not only from the sun setting. The bus ride home proceeded through the dark and I could not come up with any positive outlook.

Near 10:30 that evening the phone rang, but as I was in another area of the house, I did not hear the ring. When I returned to my workstation I got the recorded message. A Metro Transit bus driver named Ashley called and said she had just had time to investigate the camera bag and had discovered my business cards. Ashley left her phone number and suggested that if I could call her before her shift ended at 12:45 a.m., we might be able to arrange a meet up and avoid the lost and found routine. I called Ashley immediately and we worked out that she was presently driving the 21 (Lake Street route). She said she was to be at the Uptown Transit Station at 11:14 p.m.

So at about 10:45 p.m. I was on the bicycle pedaling over to the Uptown area. Thankfully the precipitation had ceased and the pavement for the most part had dried. I have often felt well of the bus drivers who have chauffeured me around on my commutes, but Ashley was a driver who rescued me from a gloomy journey. She said that she really preferred that I would recover the camera from her, as she was concerned about it being delayed and possibly damaged if it went through the Metro Transit’s lost and found system.

Thank you Ashley! I do not know if she had found the camera in a walk-through at her turn-around, or if another kind soul had turned it over as a found object, but Ashley performed above her duty as a driver in contacting me and working out how to meet up.

The adventure evolved into something completely different then what I had anticipated when I started. I started, hoping I would be able to help contribute with advancing a progressive agenda; it ended with me benefiting from the kindness of strangers. Still a progressive agenda.


wardrobe malfunction:

And I failed to think it dropped off in the bus.

With a song in the heart, get out in the world. Enjoy yourself. Have fun, be safe and love one another.