I was in an old post office in central Indiana today snapping these pictures with my phone when a mustachioed man approached me and said in a stern voice, “Excuse me."
"Oh, I’m sorry," I said, and shuffled a few feet over, assuming I was blocking him. “No, EXCUSE ME," he said. “I’ve been watching you. It is illegal to take pictures in this building. This is a government building. You can’t take pictures here."
Some things that went through my head in quick succession…
- "Wow, that’s a tidy mustache."
- "Is he going to confiscate my iphone?"
- "Do I have to destroy the photos?"
- "How do I convince him I’m not doing anything wrong?"
- "I feel so guilty."
I tried to smile and apologize and say that I didn’t know, which only seemed to make him want to talk about it more. This was the last thing I wanted to do, because I felt mortified, jittery, and liable to cry.
What’s My Deal?
Is this just nascent, genetic Catholic guilt making me feel so wrong and naughty? Was I really doing something unacceptable? Whatever it was, I felt instantly, profoundly wrotten. Like I didn’t belong there. In that post office. In that town. In the whole damn state, really. I’m sure this could have happened just as easily in a public building in San Francisco, but I think because in my photo-taking I’d been making subtle, private commentary on the otherness of it all, my encounter with the Mr. Mustache made me feel resentful, out of place, and also kind of like a jerk. All kinds of awesome feelings. The whole thing just made me want to float away and dissolve in the atmosphere.