October 6, 2011, Washington, DC: The other night on my evening run, I came upon a man in a bright orange tee-shirt and denim overalls clutching the dome of the Capitol building in the palm of his hand. He was posing for the camera at that perfect angle with the landmark a ways behind him as so many tourists do — whether appearing to serve up sunset on a tiny platter, push back against the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or pinch the tip of the Taj Mahal. I didn’t mean to, but just as the shutter clicked, I ran behind that man grasping the Capitol Dome, disrupting the illusion and ruining the joke.
That’s when it occurred to me that this is one of those funny things about living so close to a major tourist attraction: I inadvertently land in countless strangers’ photos, in dozens of their videos. Perhaps funnier still is that this is a very popular pose — and that it doesn’t look like anything special in person. But once you recognize what these tourists are doing, you begin to see this photo everywhere. (That’s no backdrop. That really is my dear friend at the Taj Mahal.)
Have you ever lived near a major tourist attraction? If you have, you probably have your own list of quirks that come with location…
On Capitol Hill, I’m asked for directions. A lot. I’m used to the sound of helicopters flying overhead. I’ve become an expert at biking through narrowly spaced bollards outside of federal buildings. I’ve come to find the sight of boring office clothes that exude zero personality par for the course.
Mostly though, I am accustomed to my role as a supporting actress in strangers’ photos.
These photos aren’t mine, of course. They’re on other people’s cameras, on someone else’s fridge. I wish I had them to share. For now, I leave you with some photos from inauguration weekend in Washington, a time when it was impossible to take a picture that didn’t include several unknown guest stars.