I was deep undercover when I spotted him. Chrome-dome, tailored tux, lip bit. Who was he? I didn‘t know and I didn’t care. But something about this utterly distinguished gentleman doing the twist with his seven year old held me spellbound. Perhaps it was because I was doing much the same. Actually I was thrown’ down a mean ‘robot’ as my youngest shrunk in horror, but that’s not important right now. What is important is I wasn’t in the moment. Instead of taking in my ten year old in all her splendor, my eyes were darting around the ballroom like a sniper on deadline. The insurance agent with the too-tight toupee, poppin’ and lockin’ by the punchbowl, that pharmaceutical salesman, the one digging in his thousand dollar suit for a business card as his six year old climbs up him, the shrieking pack of fifth graders trailing the cookie tray lady. All around me, men in black and little girls in ruffles attempted all manners of rhythm as the sound of Kelly Clarkson blasted every crevice of The Empire Room. How was your Friday night?
Mine was great - another Father-Daughter dance I’ll strive to describe to future descendants. But as much as I may have been lost in all that estrogen and reverie, another part of me remained clinically aware of my surroundings - eve as I whipped out that patch of cardboard and started to break-dance. It all became clear once my fifth grade ran off the dance floor screaming: I’m a photog. No matter how I disavow my field, years of conditioning have rendered me unable to not appreciate dramatic lighting, to not analyze ambient sound, to not survey faces for expressions suitable for framing. My youngest daughter safely drowning her shame in three kinds of chocolate chips, I was free to roam the great hall in search of prey. Fishing my digital camera out of a suit pocket, I scanned the room for Mr. Bit-Lip. Finding him in mid-Travolta, I moved across the room like a hitman until the disco ball light bouncing off his forehead momentarily blinded me. Wonder what tax attorneys think about on the weekends?
I wouldn’t know. Been doing this silly gig too long to know any other angle. I proved it again a day later, when not far from the scene of my dancehall shenanigans, I skulked along the edge of a college classroom, Canon PowerShot in hand. This time however I wasn’t tracking white man under-bite, I was hunting genius At least that’s how I’d describe the middle school kids taking part in Math Counts - some kind of Mathletic Event my oldest child looks forward to every year. If I weren’t so proud, I’d feel stupid. How else am I supposed to feel when they flash a paragraph of symbols I don’t even recognize on the overhead projector and before I finish deciphering the third squiggle, some kid in a free t-shirt yells out ’16907.4’ and high-fives his buddies before the judge can even tell him he’s correct. Damn! I’ll be working for that kid someday. Better get a picture…
Trouble is, I don’t act like the other Dads. Whereas they loiter on the edge with handy-cams at parade rest, I palm my tiny lens and move toward the front like one of those scary church ladies who appear out of nowhere to catch those stricken with the spirit. Sometimes the tunnel-vision kick in and I forget where I am. Suitably southern and quite polite, I’m known to slam a Grandma into the boards should she wander into my shot. That kind of behavior I cannot endorse, but something just takes over my soul in the presence of a photo-op. Perhaps that explains my actions Saturday, when no sooner had my oldest daughter’s name been called than I bounded down the steps three at a time, lest I not be in place for the trophy shot. Oh rest assured I was there, but not before realizing the entire crowd was staring at the goateed loser clutching the handrail with one free buttock while he leaned w-a-y in over the stage and triggered a cavalcade of flashes. I knew then my quite refined oldest child would have a thing or two to say about Dad’s enthusiasm on the way home.
I just wish they hadn't called security.