I’ve been mobbed.
It’s happened before, actually, but never like this.
I often get small swarms of children by my side at school dances or other events where the children are eager to have their photos taken for the newspaper. Sometimes, one even will follow me around at events.
But last week, as I strode through the Lakewood Ranch YMCA and out to the swimming area, I knew YMCA Summer Camp participants would be busily splashing around in the afternoon heat. I stepped toward the shallow-end of the pool, holding my camera carefully and keeping my eyes open for a good photo opportunity.
The children took one look at my press badge, my camera, and me, and the mobbing ensued before I even had a chance to breathe, it seemed.
Their hair and bodies dripping water just inches from my precious camera, they crowded around:
“Why do you have a camera?”
“Will you take my picture?”
“Will you take a picture of me and my brother? Me and my friend?”
“Do you really work for a newspaper?”
The questions kept coming. And, I stood there, amazed that at least 20 children were already crowded around and I hadn’t even taken one photo yet. A camp counselor helped round up the children and get them back in the water, but it was something he had to do a number of times over the next 30 minutes or so that I was there.
Just like Mary, who had a little lamb, the children were sure to follow wherever I went. If I went to the left side of the pool, it suddenly became busy with children, who were splashing to get attention, asking to have their photo taken or pretending to be playing, all the while staring at me.
If I went to the right, they followed me there, too.
It was as if someone drained the water out of the other side of the pool. The change was that drastic.
I watched two girls slowly making their way through the water toward me. One looked up, and I saw her eyes widen as she spotted my camera. She was farther ahead and quickly turned back to grab her friend’s hand and pull her closer. The two tried to act like I wasn’t there, but I saw them suppress smiles and laughter every time I looked at them.
Another group of boys, who already had requested numerous pictures, started a conga line to get my attention. “Conga, conga, conga!” they shouted, never taking their eyes off me for longer than a moment. At least a dozen children had joined in by the time they realized I had finished getting pictures of their antics.
It was one of the most challenging photo events I’ve had in a while, because it was so hard to capture images of children playing candidly, despite my pleas for them to pretend that I — the photographer from the newspaper — wasn’t there.
Even still, truthfully, it was fun for me, as well.
I know the children can’t wait to see their pictures in the paper this week (see Page B7), and that’s about as rewarding as it gets.
I’ve been mobbed.