“Laura, you don’t need a flag. You are a flag. You could use a baton though,” one of my coworkers says to me as I, in my flowy kaftan, lead my parade of eight through the busy intersections of Pioneer Square like a marching ringmaster. Or maybe a crossing guard jogging it out with high-knees? Either way, we are heading toward Pike Place Market and Seattle TheatreSports, an improv comedy show, because I want nothing more for my birthday than laughter with friends on all sides.
And then I see him.
There he is, crouched down on one knee about thirty feet ahead of us. He scoots back and forth on the sidewalk pivoting off one hand like a real-life Spiderman, though one who is wearing holes through a nice pair of jeans. He holds a camera and shoots up and down the street and landscape and sky at alternate angles. I can’t see what he’s photographing. What I do see is an opportunity. With his back to me, he’s unable to spot me rushing him like a cheetah hunting a laser-focused gazelle.
“Hold me back,” I say to my gaggle of friends.
One says to another, “As if she can be restrained.”
I gain speed in my three-inch high wedge sandals and pull away from the pack. Another says, “There she goes,” like they let loose a bouquet of colorful balloons into the cloudy Seattle sky.
My swirling kaftan gives me wings to fly. I surge and become a long-jumping ballerina. I am instantly IN the photo.
I squeal, “Photobombbbbb!” Take that, Spiderman in nice jeans!
My friends are generally used to my spontaneous desire to jump into any scene for the fun of it, photographed or otherwise.
And the times when my body can’t get there fast enough, at minimum, I attempt a “fingerbomb.” It is my positive spin on flipping the bird; it is a flick of happy.
I’ve even been told, “Laura, you just photobombed a flower.”
Mr. Nice Jeans photographer turns. His eyes are kind and his perfect teeth smile wide behind a lumberjack beard and a telephoto lens. I smile wider to match his. It is contagious. Then…
Click. Click, click.
He closes in on me and my face and shoots a series of, what I can only guess, are close-ups of a whale shark seining for plankton. Because I cannot shake this gummy grin.
Click, click, click. “What’s your story?” he asks me from behind his lens.
In the snap of a shutter, I learn his name is Greg Westhoff. In minutes, I discover he’s a director/editor/cinematographer and contributor to Instagram’s @ourneighbors.
“Awesome,” I tell him. “I need an author photo for my memoir.”
“What’s your book about?” he asks, as he clicks a few more rounds.
“It’s about my time working as the sole female and scientist on a fishing boat on the Bering Sea,” I say.
“I’m hooked already,” he says. “I know the life well. I’ve commercially fished in Alaska since I was fifteen years old.”
Serendipitous? What are the chances of such an encounter? This is why I talk to strangers. This is why I photobomb. You never know what spontaneous interactions will bring your way. Photobomb and you shall receive?
We both shuffle off together. He says, “You know, you didn’t really photobomb anyone.”
“Well, I photobombed your cityscape,” I replied.
“Nice friends, by the way,” he says. I look blocks ahead where my flock of friends has flown.
I joke, “Well, Greg, there’s another reason to photobomb, because you never know when you need a few substitute friends.”
We are both late to our plans but happy to have paused long enough to interact and laugh with a smiling stranger, both who surprisingly happened to have worked on fishing boats in Alaska.
In this technological age where reaching out to people is mostly, and literally, at your fingertips, don’t forget to look up, to interact with the many smiling faces in front of you. They might make your day or at least make you smile, and you might form a new friendship or at least find a much needed photographer out of it.
Plus, photobombing is fun.
Love This Day.