At first I didn’t believe it. Could that man – that nice-looking, professionally dressed man – be taking photographs of an unsuspecting woman with his cell phone?
We were waiting quietly in line at the local copy shop when I noticed the man in front of me was deeply involved in reading his cell phone, or so it appeared. It soon dawned on me that no one would be holding their phone that far out in front of themselves and at that particular angle to read a message, unless they were over 97 years old. The only thing he could possibly be doing was taking photographs of the butt belonging to the woman in line before him. I leaned closer to check my suspicion just as he snapped another photo of — yes, there it was on his cell phone screen – her butt.
I was already in a particularly irritable mood since our coffeemaker picked that morning to spew coffee all over the counter and all over me, and I was in no mood to suffer fools or perverts gladly. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, but do you know her?”
The man turned and squinted at me as if I were an alien eating a live baby instead of a fellow citizen catching him in the act of filling his phone with photos of some unsuspecting woman’s butt. So he did what any cornered weasel would do. He tried to bluff his way out. In an authoritative, corporate voice he said, “Excuse me?”
His response only fueled my anger; not only was he a pervert, he was also a bad actor. People were starting to stare. So with justice on my side, I cleared my voice and spoke louder, “I asked whether you know her, since you are taking pictures of her with your cell phone.”
The woman in question turned around briefly, affording us a polite but embarrassed smile before she hurried to the cashier to pay for her items. The man gave a bemused laugh and looked at the other customers, who were by now watching the drama unfold with great interest. He rolled his eyes as if to indicate what an obviously crazy accusation this was, made by an insane person at that.
Granted, he was the one in the ironed khakis, button-down shirt and expensive loafers, with copies of architecture plans rolled under his arm, and I was the one in jeans and a ratty sweatshirt, carrying a diaper bag that doubled as a purse, and a pile of crumpled receipts to copy. My credibility problem notwithstanding, I had right on my side and wasn’t about to let it go.
“You weren’t taking pictures of that woman?” I challenged.
“Of course I wasn’t taking – what a ridiculous …" the man let his indignation trail off into laughter, then turned back around to feign ignoring me.
A wiser woman would have left it alone. A wiser woman would have behaved like Henry Fonda in the film 12 Angry Men, where he plants a quiet seed of doubt in the jury and everyone ends up believing him before he walks away with quiet dignity. But I am not Henry Fonda and it is not 1957. I’m someone’s pissed-off mother trying to get her tax return in the mail before the IRS. comes a-calling.
“Humor us, then. Show us your cell phone,” I said.
When did I become “that woman,” I wondered, the one making a public scene? Am I brazen because I am 40 years old? Or is my sass due to my latent anger at the world’s crappiest coffeemaker? It didn’t matter anymore. I was on a mission. By this point, even the cashier stopped what she was doing to watch me, Public Avenger Woman, bring justice to victimized butts everywhere.