Disorderly Content


This is How Wars Get Started

This weekend I was in Reno for the Great Reno Balloon Race, a hot air balloon event I have enjoyed a few times before. This morning I had a rather disconcerting incident, which is why I'm blogging for the first time in a long time. No way I can describe what happened in a tweet.

Each day at the Balloon Race begins at 5 AM. That means arriving at the park and getting onto the field well in advance. This morning I was in place at 4:05 AM, with my tripod set up and my camera ready to go. Trust me when I say that I was pretty much alone at that hour. There was hardly anyone in sight yet.

The first event is called the glow show, where a few tethered balloons perform a light show to musical accompaniment. That's followed by the Dawn Patrol, a handful of balloons whose pilots are certified for night takeoffs. By this point the field was moderately populated, but not all that crowded. While the Dawn Patrol was doing their light show before taking off, I turn from another photographer with whom I am chatting to see a rather tall gentleman standing directly in front of my camera. And by directly in front I mean that; there was maybe a foot and change between him and the front of my lens.

I wait for him to move, or realize he's blocking me. When that doesn't work, I speak to him. And when that doesn't work I touch his arm and point out that he's in the way. That's when he tells me that he knows he's in the way. He intends to be in the way. He starts haranging me because I'm in the way of his children, who are lying on a blanket twenty or so feet behind me. We photographers with our tripods are keeping his kids from seeing the show.

Now let's ignore for a moment the reality that lying on the ground, you aren't going to get a good view of tethered balloons. Besides photographers, quite a few other people are also standing to get a good view. My first comment is that if he'd told me of the problem, I'd have been willing to move. He tells me that he can't be expected to tell ten photographers to move. I very quickly realize that he has no interest in solving the problem. No, he's pissed, and all he wants is to piss somebody else off.

(I will point out that it wasn't until later that I got his reference to ten photographers. He wasn't complaining about me personally, but me as one of the group of photographers. So why did he single me out? My guess is that I'm quite a bit shorter than the other photographers and therefore easier to intimidate and less able to tell him to fuck off without personal risk. So he's a bully and a coward, rather than merely an obnoxious asshole.)

Talking to him got me nowhere, and neither did my pointing out that I was already in place before he and his sleepy family arrived. His response to that: "Whoopdido for you." Classy and rational.

And of course now I'm pissed off. And grateful I don't carry a weapon, because in that moment I would happily have gone nuclear on his ass. Not proud of that, but I'm not proud of having to take his abuse either.