Safety First.... and maybe second

April 05, 2017

          Once I stood along a major route below an overpass taking photos of the underside of a bridge. After nearly having my heels run over by passing cars, I decided to invest in a green florescent vest - the kind that highway workers wear at construction sites so they don’t get mowed down by motorists. At seventeen dollars, it was a small price to pay for my safety when doing my own version of road work.

          I’m not usually in such precarious positions, but it did have an added benefit when I wore it downtown on my way to photograph the colored lights of the Market Street Bridge one December night. It was winter, dark and cold, and I was wearing my heavy black down coat. In spite of cars’ headlights – or, perhaps, because of them – I knew that many would not be able to see me crossing the street. So, I put my hot green vest over my coat before hauling myself, my camera and my tripod to the river.

          Oddly, the vest offered an unanticipated form of protection. At Riverfront Park, a young man carrying a small plastic bag which appeared to contain his dinner asked me, “Am I allowed to be here?”

          “What?” I asked.

          He repeated the question.

          “Sure,” I answered, “and why did you ask me that?”

          He responded that, because I was wearing the florescent green vest, he thought I was some kind of cop or something.

          It wasn’t my intention to impersonate a police officer. Hell, I just didn’t want to get flattened while crossing the street. But the vest seemed to say “Official,” at least in his mind, and who was I to argue. Perhaps it would to others.

          I felt safer already.