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Is It Our Right...?

The other day my family and I were out for a drive and stumbled across Prince Albert City Police attending the scene of a crime. We could see there’d been an accident and later we saw a police truck pulled on a tow truck with damage to the front end.  Usually when we see emergency vehicles, I whip out my cell phone to take pictures so we can look at the photos and see what happened in greater detail later.  This time, the scene seemed like it wasn’t appropriate to do so.  And that’s a strange thing for me to say because I am perhaps one of the snoopiest people I know!  The next morning, as details were released to the public, I’m kind of relieved I didn’t have my phone out, recording the scene as we drove by. And to be clear, I was a passenger in the vehicle and wasn’t causing distractions to the driver.

Fast forward to yesterday morning when my sister pulled out of a fast food restaurant after grabbing a coffee.  One second her path was clear, the next a vehicle was rapidly approaching so, she checked over her shoulder and her rear view mirror ... all clear, and she began to back up.  A small, light coloured vehicle approached from behind and laid on the horn.  My sister was waved forward by the other vehicle but the occupants of the car behind her rattled her to the point she found a quiet place to park and got out to check the rear end of her vehicle.  No dents, scratches or scrapes confirmed she had NOT hit the vehicle but the occupants of the car followed her, took her photo along with her licence plate, then sped off as their tires squealed.  As if she would be chasing them and didn’t have better things to do with her time that morning ... such as phoning the police to ask their advice regarding the events that had transpired.  

My point is, somewhere along the way we, as humans, have begun to believe it’s our right to use our camera phones not just to record our lives, but the lives of complete strangers.  Is it our right to post events that we see to social media or to make a meme out of it, poking fun at whomever we think deserves to be scoffed at and belittled?  Have we, as a society, all developed a paparazzi mind set where our cameras are always at the ready to document life events, then turn those into positive or negative exposés, depending on our mindset at the moment we post it to social media?

There are moments in life that have been so special, so nearly sacred, I’ve wanted to pull out my camera and capture it.  The day several years ago when a fighter jet flew down low over the river before heading North comes to mind.  I could practically see the pilot in the cockpit. I had time to do it but I didn’t pull out my camera phone.

The morning my Mom and I listened as a “freight train” swept down our street and did some fairly intense damage at the end of the block... we’d never heard a “plow wind” and the curtains were open to capture what we’d seen.  I chose to keep my hand down and my attention on high alert, in case there was a need to find safety or evacuate.

In 2012, as a storm passed over us causing a power outage for days, I stood on my front step and listened to the thunder.  The rain fell in sheets, and almost seemed to be falling “up” and sideways rather than down.  Water ran in pools along the street.  For half an hour I stood listening to the thunder, it rumbled in several different octaves and it never ceased. We were clearly in the eye of the storm. And I won’t deny that the thunder continued rolling as I escaped into the shelter of the house... it scared me.  And I love storms!

A couple of years later, people from the North were evacuated to Prince Albert, Saskatoon and other cities in order to keep them safe while forest fire rampaged through the north, threatening communities and destroying homes until the fires were out.  I recall having to be in Saskatoon for a medical appointment and as I approached the hotel I was staying in, elders sat on the ground in the hot summer sun, trying to find some peace in the fresh air.  Once I stood in line for my turn to check in, I could clearly hear the staff member yelling at a man that he should have eaten with his family because they wouldn’t honour the food voucher he was presenting at the restaurant.  I didn’t take photos or record these two acts of insensitivity ... nor did I report to social media that the room they gave me that day was already occupied by another family.  I could have taken everything that family brought with them when they fled their home.  Instead, I left and requested a vacant room. And I’ve never returned to the hotel since.  When the manager phoned, after I mentioned I was dissatisfied upon my last visit, I told him what I’d seen.  He offered me a free weekend to “make up” for my inconvenience.  I declined as it wasn’t my inconvenience he should have been concerned with - it was all those displaced people who didn’t have a seat to sit on in the shade, food or even secure shelter... they were the ones inconvenienced.  

I guess what I’m saying is, we don’t need a camera or a recording device to capture life’s moments that shouldn’t be forgotten.  We are perfectly capable of seeing and relating these moments without documentation.  And for those very special moments that I never wish to forget ... those are the times I take pictures with my heart. I think it’s my right to enjoy these times at my leisure, through great memories that I can share in my old age, if anyone cares to listen.

Take care and have a great week everyone.

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