Freedom Fries Revisited

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In the Fairfield Weekly, Tom Gogola writes of a horrifying encounter with security forces that began, as these things always do, with fried potato products.

I was heading back to Connecticut after a weekend with the family when I took the photo. I'd eaten the fries on the way over, but couldn't stomach another round, so I snapped two photos at the food counter, and as I was putting the camera away, two guys behind the counter started lobbing hostile, accusatory questions in my direction. "Why are you taking pictures of the food?" "I'm writing a review," I responded, and walked away.

I went outside to take some notes and then headed back into the cabin. I observed that there were two crew members standing near me, and I heard one of them talking about me, and the photo I took. I had been turned in!

I'm of the mindset that when overzealous 9/11-hero wannabes start making ridiculous accusations, I am going to stand up and say something. If I hear you talking about me like I might be a terrorist for taking a picture of french fries, I am going to interrupt and put some perspective on the matter. So I approached the mate and told him I had a complaint about his crew. I didn't appreciate their hostility. Yes, I was livid. Stone-cold sober, too.

F-bombs are thrown, IDs are deemed invalid, and hilarity ensues.

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  1. Sorry, but Golga sounds like a world-class jerk. Of course “Gilligan” did not respond well to a guy cussing him out for no obvious reason.

  2. If you ever want to find out if that big industrial facility down the street works on defense-related projects, all you have to do is pull into their parking lot, take a photo, and count to ten.

    Ooh, you’re going to get the “A-1 Security” shif manager? OK.

    Hey, those people have to justifiy their budget, too.

  3. In light of this story, it’s definitely worth re-visiting the Shrine of the Mall Ninja.

    http://lonelymachines.org/mall-ninjas/

  4. When I’m ordered to show my ID, I’m always tempted to bust out my concealed carry permit. It is a state-issued ID, after all, but I always have the nagging feeling that Something Bad would happen if I did.

  5. I’m a travel writer/photographer and it’s amazing to me how often this kind of thing happens, especially when I’m out just taking pix in places where tourists don’t normally congregate.
    My instinct is to react exactly like Golga, but I’m sure my editors would be less than thrilled if they had to bail me out of some jail in Raleigh or Boise.
    And don’t get me started about the, ah-hem, fine men and women of the TSAr who play such a large role in my professional life now.

  6. The sad thing is, more people don’t have the “when overzealous 9/11-hero wannabes start making ridiculous accusations, I am going to stand up and say something” mindset. How long before, submitting to body cavity searches when renewing drivers license becomes commonplace.

  7. Just for kicks, when asked for a photo ID in the past I would pull out my state issued 220 General Lines insurance agent card with my picture on it.

    It was a totally gay thing to do!!

  8. The sad thing is, more people don’t have the “when overzealous 9/11-hero wannabes start making ridiculous accusations, I am going to stand up and say something” mindset. How long before, submitting to body cavity searches when renewing drivers license becomes commonplace.

    Problem is, the author didn’t have any accusations made towards him. He got angry at overhearing people talk about him.

  9. jkp,

    Thanks for the Mall Ninja stories. Good stuff.

  10. Dan T., I’m not sure you’d realize that most people don’t appreciate people making silly accusations about them (which is what he overheard), since that is the raison d’etre of trolls.

  11. I agree with Dan T, this guy kinda brought this on himself. Sure, the employess overreacted, but if he had just rolled his eyes and walked away I bet nothing would have happened. Instead he got in the manager’s face about what is really a super minor incident and, weird, the manager did not react well to it.

  12. I’ve been on the Port Jeff – Bridgeport ferry a few times, and I seem to recall that there are clear notices that photography isn’t allowed in certain places, both in the harbor and on the ferry.

    They tend to ignore it if you’re taking pictures of the Sound, which I like to do, but they don’t like it if you’re taking “unusual” pictures.

  13. Does that photography ban extend to the snack bar?

  14. As much as my heart wants to side with Golga, and as much as the “papers, please” security show grates on me, I just can’t do it.

    There is something about a guy who thinks that starting an argument with a $7.00/hr security guard counts as a blow against Big Brother that reminds me of the people who think that writing a blog and using the word “Islamofascist” counts as a blow against terrorism.

  15. joe, the difference is that writing a blog doesn’t actually involve any interaction with the phenomenon one is railing against.

    But when somebody actually confronts you and says that taking a photo of french fries threatens the Homeland, it doesn’t matter how much or how little the guy makes. He’s actually there, in front of you, trying to get in your way, and you have to call bullshit on it.

  16. That’s fine, throeau.

    Just don’t pretend it makes you a freedom fighter.

    All I’m sayin’.

  17. I’m a travel writer/photographer and it’s amazing to me how often this kind of thing happens, especially when I’m out just taking pix in places where tourists don’t normally congregate.

    Two years ago I was taking photos of the July 4 fireworks in Atlanta. Standing on a public sidewalk, overlooking Lenox Mall, I still got harassed and shut down by the cops.

  18. thoreau, I think the difference here is that the guy Golgola cursed out doesn’t seem to have confronted him; Golgola just overheard a conversation about himself.

    I agree with joe; I’m all for going to the mattresses if some jackass confronts you about taking photos of french fries, but there’s no reason to open up with F-bombs because somebody else mentions your odd behavior in conversation without knowing you’re there.

  19. Just don’t pretend it makes you a freedom fighter.

    It makes you a Freedom Fries fighter though.

  20. Brian, if you realize that you are suddenly on the radar because you photographed some french fries, and you tell them that they are being ridiculous, what’s wrong with that?

  21. Warty,

    I use my CCDW permit as ID on a regular basis. About the only places Im ever asked for IDs are bars (and not very often anymore). Its fun to use the CCDW there since I cant carry there. Ive gotten some odd reactions.

  22. So, Joe: how high does an authority figure’s salary have to be before you think his assaults against freedom should be taken seriously? Is it an absolute number, or is it relative to the salary of whomever he’s fucking with?

  23. The one time I did try to call “bullshit” was at a mall in Cincinnati when a security guard informed me I couldn’t take pictures of the outside of her facility from a public street. (I have no problem with a privately owned facility prohibiting photos inside.)
    I tried to remain pleasant, but asked to see her supervisor so I could explain a few things.
    The supervisor told me it was because the mall was a high-priority terrorist target.
    Of course right next door was a huge tourist attraction (which, were I a terrorist, would be a much more attractive target), where nearly everyone inside was carrying a camera and snapping pix.
    In any case, I just held my tongue and walked away, which wasn’t easy.

  24. thoreau,

    It’s a matter of the way you go at it. From this guy’s own description, it sounds like he was spoiling for a fight from the drop. A calm explanation of what he was doing would probably have been more helpful than unleashing a stream of F-bombs at the $7/hr security guard.

    By the way, I’m not saying I’m above that sort of reaction. But I can usually recognize afterward that I was being counterproductive.

  25. Jennifer,

    Somebody talking about me is not really much of an assault on my freedom.

  26. Somebody talking about me is not really much of an assault on my freedom.

    Somebody threatening to sic the cops on you if you don’t obey his petty dictates is. Low pay be damned.

  27. Jennifer,

    Is it a genetic flaw that you can’t address arguments as they are actually made, or is it a learned behavior?

    Compare, “starting an argument with a $7.00/hr security guard” to “taken seriously.”

    Now, when you figure out a way to formulate your question so it bears some resemblance to my point, get back to me.

  28. At the article’s end Gogola writes “this episode was clearly brought to you by the same dangerously moronic mindset that brought you Freedom Fries.”

    More accurately, this is the same mindset that brought on the Bostonian over-reaction to the Mooninite Marauders of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

    Them weren’t ordinary fries. IT WAS FRYLOCK!

  29. Compare, “starting an argument with a $7.00/hr security guard” to “taken seriously.”

    My question involves how much the security guard needs to be paid before his petty power plays can be argued with. If you’re too dishonest to stand by your own statements after failing to think them through, don’t try projecting that onto me.

  30. It’s a matter of the way you go at it. From this guy’s own description, it sounds like he was spoiling for a fight from the drop. A calm explanation of what he was doing would probably have been more helpful than unleashing a stream of F-bombs at the $7/hr security guard.

    Gotta agree. Of course, if he had asked if he could take a snapshot of the food counter, in light of there being ‘no photography’ signs around (at least in the terminals), he probably would’ve gotten to write his original story.

  31. So this one time at the fry counter on the ferry, this prickly jackass steps up to the counter and makes a big show of taking a candid picture of the staff with a fancy journalist’s $10,000 camera. Didn’t even ask first or buy anything, but he may have mentioned he bought fries on another leg of the ferry trip. He tosses off a line about he’s writing a review. Now, these fries may not be the best in the world, but the workers have some pride, and I don’t want a picture of an inadvertent fly on the fries costing their jobs.

    The ship mates, collegial guys who the galley staff joke around and smoke-break with, step up for the honor of co-workers, but in a passive-agressive way, by making overzealous stage-whisper comments “can-you-believe-that-guy” about our mr. jackass. The prickly jackass has the nerve to call down the management about well-earned opinions about his visible public behavior and demeanor, throws around f-bombs, and proceeds to make a federal case out of it by connecting it to 9-11 all by himself!

  32. I’d eaten the fries on the way over, but couldn’t stomach another round, so I snapped two photos at the food counter

    I realize this is kind of irrelevant, but how is taking a picture of the fries a substitute for eating them? Or, if he wanted a picture just to jog his memory while at the computer later on, why did the fact that he was full enter into his decision?

    I just don’t get this guy.

  33. Gorgonzola’s foil — I believe you have a future as an appellate lawyer.

  34. Jennifer,

    “My question involves how much the security guard needs to be paid before his petty power plays can be argued with.”

    No, your question involves how much the security guard has to be paid before starting a fight with him, personally, amounts to taking his actions seriously.

    Personally, I’m not one of those people who shrieks at the DPW guy doing pick and shovel work because my water bill went up, or at the person at the check-in desk becaue the airline doesn’t allow large suitcases as carry ons.

    But that’s just me.

  35. I can see joe’s point. Terrorism stupidity/batin is everywhere, but opportunities to fight back, and be a hero about it, are not.

    None the less, wouldn’t urkobold be pleased with all of this nonsense?

  36. Jennifer, Is it a genetic flaw…

    My guess is that it the extra X and missing Y chromosomes.

    I keed, I keed.

  37. Personally, I’m not one of those people who shrieks at the DPW guy doing pick and shovel work because my water bill went up, or at the person at the check-in desk becaue the airline doesn’t allow large suitcases as carry ons. But that’s just me.

    Translation: that’s just somebody who pretends not to understand that the pick-and-shovel worker has no say in what your water rates are, but a security guard, whether he makes seven or seventy bucks an hour, damn sure has a say in whether or not he’s going to view a french-fry photo as a possible terrorist threat.

  38. Personally, I’m not one of those people who shrieks at the DPW guy doing pick and shovel work because my water bill went up, or at the person at the check-in desk becaue the airline doesn’t allow large suitcases as carry ons.

    Unless they were on the Internet. In which case, you would devote hours and hours of your time arguing with them.

  39. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter if he was a jerk, or if he could have handled it better- we’re not looking for nominations for freedom-fighter poster boys here, because he wasn’t striking a blow for freedom. What he was doing was striking a blow against utter fucktwit stupidity, and when fighting fucktwit stupidity a few F-bombs are totally fine.

  40. Jennifer,
    As much as I like watching you bitch-slap joe, don’t you think your time would be better spent giving the fans of your feral genius blog a new and long over due journal entry?

    Sincerely yours,

    NoStar

    PS: btw, did you see my new wine review at The Wine Commonsewer? http://www.winecommonsewer.com/the_wine_commonsewer/2007/05/danzante_2002_m.html#comments

  41. “Personally, I’m not one of those people who shrieks at the DPW guy doing pick and shovel work because my water bill went up…”

    I think I am one of those people. For example, if my rare steak gets burnt to shit at a restaurant and no manager comes ’round after I mention it to the server, that server is likely to get stiffed on the tip. Was it his fault? No. But now he will complain to the right people, because their mismanagement is costing him. Not exactly the same situation as our hero, but similar mindframe.

    And yes, I waited tables for several years.

  42. I suspect that Jennifer is a little jealous that security guards make $7/hr.

  43. Jennifer,

    I don’t think you have a very good conception of how much say security doods working for shit pay have over how they do their jobs.

  44. Just don’t pretend it makes you a freedom fighter.

    Sure it does. If everyone pushed back at whoever was pushing them around with no good reason, things would change.

  45. Ah, RC, but the security dood and the TSA dood do have a good reason – they’re going to be fired if they don’t do their job as their superiors direct them.

    If you want to push back at the mall management and Congress, have at it. That’s something that might bring about a change. If you want to complain to the City Council about sewer rates, go right ahead.

    But you might as well yell at the toll both dood about the price of tolls, as act like jerk to some security guard doing what his job entails.

  46. At the risk of invoking Godwin; since when does receiving a near minimum wage give anyone carte blanche to invoke the “I was just following orders” defense.

  47. When they aren’t committing a crime.

  48. Southern sheriffs made shit wages back in the day. The civil-rights protestors were damned rude to take their frustrations out on these low-paid state employees who were not, after all, committing any crimes. Quite the opposite: they were enforcing the law.

  49. If any of you guys were true libertarians you’d point out that Gogola consented to being questioned by the staff when he stepped foot on the boat and thus has no case.

    In other words, next time he should swim across the river.

  50. joe –

    do you remember the scene in Commando where Arnold gets into the fight with the security guards?

    Your 2:24 somehow got that scene in my head.

    But I’m sure the issue you raise in that post will get addressed. In some way or other! 🙂

  51. You found us out, Dan T.
    We’re all plants from Kos.

  52. We’re all plants from Kos.

    I’m a mineral, actually.

  53. “Southern sheriffs made shit wages back in the day.”

    When the mall cops take you outside and beat the shit out of you, get back to us, Jennifer.

    “who were not, after all, committing any crimes. Quite the opposite: they were enforcing the law.” As a matter of fact, they were quite often committing crimes, ranging from assault to filing a false report to murder.

    And as you might have noticed, the civil rights movement did not revolve around individuals acting like jerks to individual cops going about their daily routines.

  54. Joe, you’re the one pretending that the security guards’ salary has anything to do with the issue at hand.

    And you never did answer my original question of how much money an authority figure has to make before someone can resent the abuse of his authority. Again, I’ll settle for either a flat number of a ratio of authority-figure wage to the wage of the person he’s harassing.

  55. Nope, and I’m not going to.

    Not even you are stupid enough to fail to grasp the implication of the phrase “$7 an hour security guard” in this debate.

  56. What kind of CCW are y’all carrying around that has a photo on it? The one I got from the sheriff of Durham County, NC looks like it was made using a typewriter and some scotch tape. I’m kind of jealous that I don’t have another form of state-issued photo ID, especially one that flouts your support of the 2nd admendment.

  57. If any of you guys were true libertarians you’d point out that Gogola consented to being questioned by the staff when he stepped foot on the boat and thus has no case.

    Very true. If he had consulted his True Libertarianism Guide before he boarded, he would have been clearly instructed to read all posted signs and the back of his ticket; do due diligence at relevant government websites and, perhaps, consult a lawyer that specializes in transportation law; and discuss his potential boarding with the captain.

  58. Gotta give joe credit for at least admitting he’s avoiding the question.

  59. A half-point credit at least, NoStar. But why does he keep bringing up non-sequiturs and then getting upset when people refuse to pretend they’re actually valid points?

  60. Jennifer,
    Perhaps because he’s just an average joe.
    Or that he is the boil on the butt of this thread.

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