Unwanted cell phone picture subject

January 7, 2015   ·   0 Comments

My sister and her family have lived in Orangeville for more than 35 years.  My mother lived there for more than 15 years until she passed away last spring. I even lived there in the fall of 1987 when I was a student at the University of Waterloo.  I visit at least once a year and since moving to the U.S., I consider it my home whenever I visit my family in Canada.

Back in 2009 I decided to change my life and become more physically active.  I started at first competing in sprint triathlons and slowly moved my way up to longer distance races including half-Ironman distance triathlons and marathons.  I have competed in more than 30 triathlons, the Boston marathon, and have twice completed the NYC marathon.  I will again be running in the Boston Marathon in 2015.  I have done all of this in my 40’s, but what’s even more rare, is that I have achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism and I stand 4’4” tall.

Whenever I visit Orangeville, I usually have to spend some time training.  I have been able to get up early in the morning to swim at the Tony Rose pool and have also done a lot of running around the town.  I was home along with my wife and son for Christmas this past week and was able to go out for a morning run on both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Both days I was startled to find people taking unwanted cell-phone pics of me running.  Until you have had this done to you, you have no idea how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

The first time it happened on Christmas Eve it was at about 11AM at the corner of First and Broadway.  A young girl, about 14 or so, pulled out her phone and as I passed her, I could see her turn around with her phone aimed right at me.  I stopped and stared at her, and she quickly put her phone down and started to walk in the opposite direction.  I could accept that maybe she was an immature teen, thinking it would be “funny” to show her friends a pic of someone who looks “different” running down the street.  I continued on my way.

What happened on Boxing Day morning was far more upsetting and concerning to me.  At about 10AM I was running down on First near the Tim Horton’s across from the Canadian Tire Store.  I approached a couple with a girl who seemed to be about 7 or 8 years old.  As I approached, I heard the dad clearly say as he was holding his phone, “I haven’t started it yet.” As I ran past, out of the corner of my eye I saw him lift the phone and turn to get his shot. I immediately stopped and turned around to stare at them and said, “GET A LIFE!!” They quickly turned around and walked away taking their daughter’s hand. I stood still staring until they turned around again to see what I was doing and I yelled, “SERIOUSLY?”  What kind of example are these parents setting for their child?   What kind of a parent feels it’s acceptable to take the pic of a person, simply because they look different?

I passed many others both mornings greeting them by saying “Good morning” and virtually all of them replied in a friendly manner.  What upsets me most is that these inconsiderate people are what I remember most.  And of course my sister and her family are mortified that this happened in their town.

I do not want to attribute it to a “small town thing”, because believe it or not, it’s happened to me in larger cities too.   I am writing this letter simply because my nephew who grew up in Orangeville and now lives in a nearby town is embarrassed and asked me to write the letter in the hopes that just maybe, the people who took the pics will think twice about doing this in the future.

Just take a moment and try to think what you would feel like if someone took pics of you simply because they thought you looked “funny” and possibly wanted to share them with others.  As a Canadian who has been living out of the country since 1999, with twelve of those year in the U.S., my American friends constantly talk about how caring, friendly, and welcoming Canadians are.  I would be honest to say, that is not how I felt when unwelcome photos were being taken of me on the streets of Orangeville, especially during the season of peace and goodwill towards all.

John Young

Salem, MA

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