Busted trees, criminals and synchronized practices

040716JAR-106After a freelance job shooting photos at a gigantic, legal, medical marijuana growing operation in Gorham first thing in the morning, I got back to LA just in time to start my 1-9 shift at the newspaper. With no assignments for a while, I cruised for a mystery photo as I was running low.  I checked out the daily news budget on my phone and it looked like we were in good shape for tomorrow’s section front photos.  Found a mystery pix quickly and headed into the office to do some research on mounting my GoPro on a RC boat to photograph a cool body of water nearby for an upcoming story.  Stay tuned for more on that one, it should be fun.D3T_8313

As the light was fading into late afternoon, rain coming down hard, my boss appears at my desk and said: “The story we had budgeted for the local section front isn’t coming, so we’ll need a feature photo to anchor the page.  How about a wet weather feature, we are supposed to get heavy rain and high winds later, but the worst wind isn’t supposed to pick up until dark.”   Oh joy I thought to myself.

Off I went and quickly found a girl on her way home from track practice, skirting a big puddle.

Hawa Dakae has to run into the street to avoid a gigantic puddle on the sidewalk on Brich Street in Lewiston Thursday afternoon on her way back from track practice.

Hawa Dakae has to run into the street to avoid a gigantic puddle on the sidewalk on Brich Street in Lewiston Thursday afternoon on her way back from track practice.

As I get back in the car I heard a call for Poland Fire to respond to a tree and power line down on Hackett Mills Road.  I got there just before the Sheriff blocked off the road, but that was the end of my good luck.  It was just a power line across the road.  Nothing good to photograph.  Took something just to CYA.

Poland Deputy Fire Chief Tom Printup listens to his radio for more calls of downed trees and wires across the road as he keeps vehicles from driving over a downed line on the Harris Hill Road late Thursday afternoon.

Poland Deputy Fire Chief Tom Printup listens to his radio for more calls of downed trees and wires across the road as he keeps vehicles from driving over a downed line on the Harris Hill Road late Thursday afternoon.

On the way back to town, the night side editor calls to tell me that there are lots of power lines and trees down around town.  Where I ask.  “I was out of my car and didn’t hear anything.  Where are they?”  “Not sure, I didn’t catch any of the locations, just lots of activity.”   As if on cue, I hear LFD and AFD clearing from two scenes as I near the top of Goff Hill.  I never get tired of coming around the corner and seeing the cityscapes at the top of that hill.  But I was distracted, out of focus, stewing and steaming about the editor not getting locations.

Once again, my change of mindset paid immediate dividends.  I thought that it didn’t matter as I would most likely have  been too late to any of those scenes.  I know how confusing and difficult it is to keep tuned in on the numerous calls coming over the scanner simultaneously.  And I am sure she was doing 4 other things at the same time.  Totally understand and all is forgiven.  As I crest the top of Goff Hill it dawned on me that I just passed a freshly snapped tree a ways back and it might have just been from the storm.  It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of the hill until I realized I should turn around and check it out.

Randy Burgess looks up at the damage to trees, including a prize black walnut, that were damaged when this pine came crashing down next to his house at the top of Goff Hill in Auburn Thursday. His mother Virgina planted the tree over 40 years ago. Burgess and his mom were watching TV when they heard the crack and crash. When they looked out, the noticed that it missed his new vehicle by inches as it came down parallel to the driveway at 467 Court Street.

Randy Burgess looks up at the damage to trees, including a prize black walnut, that were damaged when this pine came crashing down next to his house at the top of Goff Hill in Auburn Thursday. His mother Virgina planted the tree over 40 years ago. Burgess and his mom were watching TV when they heard the crack and crash. When they looked out, the noticed that it missed his new vehicle by inches as it came down parallel to the driveway at 467 Court Street.

Back to the office and process the photos before heading to a feature on a synchronized swimming instructor that we will be doing a feature on in the coming weeks.   Most of the time I am thinking about how I might approach shooting an assignment before I arrive.  While driving there, I have a vision of the instructor in the foreground and the swimmers legs sticking up out of the water in the background.  As I approach the pool, I see Nancy working with one student, they were kids, I expected adults.  The girl goes under the water, in the shallow end. and pushes off the bottom and pops up, spreading her arms and splashing water.  My idea of legs sticking out gets tweaked.  I shoot at a slow shutter speed to augment the splashing and blur the kids so the focus is on the subject we are writing about.

RRD_8031As I am heading to St. Dom’s for a girls lacrosse feature that will also run in the future, I hear LPD chasing somebody a couple blocks away.  I head to where they have him detained and shoot a photo of them frisking the guy.  OMG I say to myself.  What a fantastic background if I move over to the side.  A guy getting busted with the spires of the basilica in the background and sneakers hanging from the power lines.  Oh, the irony.  The best part was when one of the cops pulled a baggie out of his pocket and a Ben Franklin.  As soon as he put them on the trunk of the cruiser the perp was bent over, a gust of wind blew them off and down the street.  I squealed with laughter as cops went running after the evidence.  Wish I was rolling video at the time.  I was incredibly impressed with my new-ish camera.  It was nearly dark and I just cranked the ISO up to 12800 and it was dialed in like I couldn’t believe.

 

Lewiston police officers arrest a Alamine Mahamat, 20, of 119 Horton St. for violating conditions of release and refusal to submit to arrest at the corner of Howe and Ash Streets Thursday at 7:20 pm. According to a police officer on scene, when a patrolman tried to stop the Mahamat, he took off running. When searched, police found a bag of what appeared to be drugs, in his pocket.

Lewiston police officers arrest a Alamine Mahamat, 20, of 119 Horton St. for violating conditions of release and refusal to submit to arrest at the corner of Howe and Ash Streets Thursday at 7:20 pm. According to a police officer on scene, when a patrolman tried to stop the Mahamat, he took off running. When searched, police found a bag of what appeared to be drugs, in his pocket.

I love technology.  I could never have recorded that scene, and done all that I did today shooting film.  Crazy changes have come about since the days of souping film.

Headed to St. Dom’s for lax practice and discovered the coach is the wife of my old tennis pal, Paul Gastonguay.  Small world.  Still have to edit those, but am running out of steam as I am going on 15 hours straight, so you will have to buy the SJ next week to see what I shot there.  A long day for sure, but it was interesting and at times, exciting and enlightening.  My only regret is that I didn’t get up earlier and take my girlfriend for a walk.  If the rain and wind have died down, I might just  head out for a midnight walk around Bates with my girl.

 

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I could not pull the trigger

Today I passed up potentially prize-winning photos.  I was in position and ready to pull the trigger.  As I watched one  dramatic moment after another unfolded,  I could not bring my camera up to my eye.

Am I going soft?  Not doing my job? Should I be reprimanded?

I am sure there will be arguments on both sides.  But my conscience will be clear when I go to bed tonight and I will only hope that everything will work out.

suicide attempt

Wednesday afternoon I was at my desk processing photos from previous assignments when my antenna went up as a call come over the scanner.  Signal 1000 on Beech Street.  (Signal 1000 tells police on duty who are not on this particular call to not use the radio as a priority situation is unfolding).  Lewiston or Auburn I wondered since all calls from Lewiston, Auburn and other municipalities’ police and fire communication all come through one speaker mounted in the photo department.  I quickly deciphered it as a possible suicide attempt on the foot trestle between Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston and Bonney Park in Auburn.

It is a sad fact, but we hear this more often than you think.  We generally won’t publish a photo in the newspaper from a suicide attempt unless it is something that causes a major public scene and creates serious disruption or public spectacle.  At some point it is deemed “newsworthy.”   It is one of dozens of judgement calls we make individually and often collectively every day when it comes to what we choose to cover.

I have been on dozens of these calls over the years and we have varied on how we handle them.  Often we publish a brief to let readers know what is going on, and if there is a generic photo of all the emergency crews blocking the area, we might run that as well.  But most of the time we just don’t go.

When I heard the fire dispatcher call for the rescue boat and cutting equipment, that tipped the scales on the response threshold.  When I got to the area there were dozens of police, fire, rescue and ambulance on both sides of the river.  The young man was near the middle, on the outside of the bridge standing on a big pipe with a rope around his neck.  When a woman came running from the parking lot crying and screaming, the drama intensified.  The responders holding her back, dropping to her knees and crying, lights, cops…..the bridge looming in the background.  You could not have scripted it much better to get a genuinely dramatic moment. If I worked myself around, I might have been able to line it all up and get the guy in the background with her in the foreground.  Sure prize winner.   I could have argued back at the newspaper that it was a public spectacle and we owe it to the public to show what was going on.  I am pretty sure I could have “sold it.”  Others might have argued against, but I do carry some weight……hey, no fat jokes please.

How many photojournalists would have “shot everything  and let the editors decide.”  Use the excuse that it’s their job to be there and capture what is going on.  I made a conscious choice to not do my job and show a little compassion.  I tried to be discrete and did shoot some photos in case the worst happened, but for the most part, I put the camera on my hip so neither the woman or the despondent man would have the added stress of knowing they will be splashed all over the news. What if he noticed me and that was the final straw that caused him to jump.  Another opportunity for prize-winning photos.   There are some things that trump my journalistic responsibilities and this was one of those scenario’s.  It was my decision.  When I was young and green I probably would have pushed the situation.   Being a father with many more life experiences has changed my perspective on many things.

I am glad I work for a newspaper that shares my compassion and won’t question the judgment call I made today.

Having said all that, my portfolio contains dozens of photos of people who are in compromising situations.  Accidents, fires, disputes and other situations where I have made the choice to pull the trigger and record the moment.  Am I hypocritical?  Perhaps.  Cynical.  Certainly.  Do I pick and choose which situations I shoot and when to stand down.  Yep.  Do I always make the proper decision.  Nope.  Every situation is different.  Some decisions are harder than others.  Sometimes we make the wrong decision to publish or not publish something.  We often get criticized and praised for our reporting.  The left calls us right, the right calls us left.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t most of the time.  It’s part of the reason I love what I do.  Interesting, intriguing, exciting and the ability to impact people’s lives.  Every day is different and every day we start with a clean slate.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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Unified week ends with dreamy weekend

Deborah Riguette calls for her cat Sarah outside her burnt out home on Hackett Mills Road in Poland Monday afternoon.  The indoor cat escaped, but a dog perished in the Sunday afternoon fire.  The scared cat would come and allow Riguette to pick her up, but when she tried to take her away from the house, the cat would scratch and jump out of her hands.  Riguette and her daughter Lisa Sotorer began to search for a box to try to put her in.  "The cat carrier is in the house." said Ringuette.

Deborah Riguette calls for her cat Sarah outside her burnt out home on Hackett Mills Road in Poland Monday afternoon. The indoor cat escaped, but a dog perished in the Sunday afternoon fire. The scared cat would come and allow Riguette to pick her up, but when she tried to take her away from the house, the cat would scratch and jump out of her hands. Riguette and her daughter Lisa Sotorer began to search for a box to try to put her in. “The cat carrier is in the house.” said Ringuette.

The past week was a real corker.  Nursing a back that won’t get better, I took but one camera with me on most assignments, and made my most memorable ones with my cell phone.  Monday started out with me heading to Poland to follow-up on a fire that we missed on Sunday.  When I arrived, with no background on the particulars, I found the woman who lost her home with her daughter looking for her indoor cat that had escaped, but had not been found.  I arrived just in time to capture the capture.  I hope.  Every time they tried to catch her, she would bolt before they could get her to the car.  I had to get back to town for kids putting rubber bands around a watermelon, so I don’t know if they ever got her in the car.  I hope so.  I was not excited to be photographing  the next assignment “recreating” the scene where kids imploded a watermelon for a story about a video that ran on America’s Funniest Videos the night before.   A video of a “recreation” didn’t sit well.

A land fight with a pile of rocks threatening to close a parking lot led off Tuesday, in a steady rain.  Tom was a little leery about having his photo taken by the pile, especially because it was on the disputed land and technically he was trespassing.  He was a sport and went for it without hesitation.

Tom Kendall, the head of the Auburn School Committee, stands on a pile of rocks that have appeared recently next to the East Auburn Community School where a neighbor has threatened to block off a portion of the parking area that the school has used for the past 15 years.

Richard Saucier points to the window he was sitting in at the corner of Ash and Bartlett Streets in Lewiston Tuesday afternoon when he heard an accident and looked out to see the black SUV, foreground, rolling back toward his building.  When he and neighbor Steve Hunt, left, they noticed the male driver take off running. They pursued him up Bartlett Street where he ran up the outside steps to a third floor balcony and hid.  When police arrived, the two, plus a crowd that had gathered, pointed out where the driver was hiding and police arrested him without incident.

Richard Saucier points to the window he was sitting in at the corner of Ash and Bartlett Streets in Lewiston Tuesday afternoon when he heard an accident and looked out to see the black SUV, foreground, rolling back toward his building. When he and neighbor Steve Hunt, left, they noticed the male driver take off running. They pursued him up Bartlett Street where he ran up the outside steps to a third floor balcony and hid. When police arrived, the two, plus a crowd that had gathered, pointed out where the driver was hiding and police arrested him without incident.

Hearing over the scanner that there was a hit and run just up the street, I could not go after hearing witnesses were chasing the guy up Bartlett Street.  A quick trip back to the office to get that posted to the web and I was off for my first ever Unified basketball game. I couldn’t believe the energy, excitement and good-natured fun that was.  Watching two Lisbon student coaches who I coached as kids at the Y was cool.  Getting the reaction of the bench was easy.  The reaction photo ran the entire width of the front page of the sports section.  I milked the bench reaction twice more in the coming week.

Lisbon Unified Basketball team student athlete coaches Jonah Sautter, right and his sister Breeann, second from right, cheer a 3 point play during Tuesday's game against Deering/Portland.

Lisbon Unified Basketball team student athlete coaches Jonah Sautter, right and his sister Breeann, second from right, cheer a 3 point play during Tuesday’s game against Deering/Portland.

The bench and fans react as a Lisbon Unified Basketball team player scores a basket during Tuesday night's Regional Championship game against Deering/Portland in Lisbon.

The bench and fans react as a Lisbon Unified Basketball team player scores a basket during Tuesday night’s Regional Championship game against Deering/Portland in Lisbon.

Lisbon Unified basketball team coach Jonah Sautter and the bench players react as a shot just misses going in during Thursday's state championship game against Hampden Academy.

Lisbon Unified basketball team coach Jonah Sautter and the bench players react as a shot just misses going in during Thursday’s state championship game against Hampden Academy.

While packing up to leave for the day, as happens way too often, one of the editors came over with an assignment that  “is going on right now.”  Nobody else was around, so I was volunteered.  Lucky for me it was for an advance story that would run later and not need processing right away.  Older people training in a boxing gym.  Not to box, but just the workout.  Ah…..the smell of the Gamache Gym in the bowels of the Armory.  The smell of hard work and grit and determination.  Now smelly old feet?

Ken Chutchian throws punches at trainer Dan Escobar during a recent training session.

Ken Chutchian throws punches at trainer Dan Escobar during a recent training session.

Wednesday was an afternoon of catching up.  Processing numerous advanced assignments, emails from people wanting this photo and that.  Can you cover my event? Speak to my group? Find an old photo for somebody writing a book and record all the mystery photo entries.  Every Sunday I publish a mystery photo, nearly 500 so far.   Some of the phone calls I get are a real hoot.  Especially a couple of the old regulars who call every week with their h’accents.  Many go on and on about the photo.  I should record them and put them online.

After getting my fill of computer and phone work, I went to the middle school to shoot a speaker on autism.  His story was compelling and I found myself staying too long to listen.  I needed to get back to the office to process the photo for that night’s paper before heading to the armory to shoot the Fallen Angels roller derby team practice that we will be doing a story on in the future.

Thursday afternoons mundane busy work at the computer was offset by the electricity in the air at the Lisbon gymnasium for the state championship Unified basketball game between Lisbon and Hampden Academy.  There are so many heartwarming stories, moments, and inspiring photos that came from that game.  My favorite is when the ball went off a Hampden player, but the referee called it Hampden ball.  To see the astonished, perplexed and confused look on the Hampden players face was priceless.  He ran right over to the ref and told him, convincingly, that “no, no, no…..the ball went off me.”  The ref shook his head, smiled, blew his whistle and shouted. “Lisbon ball.”  And the game went on.  Hampden scored more points that night, but everyone left the gym a winner. Especially cynical old photojournalists who may have had trouble holding back a tear or two during the game.

Water and slush fly into the air after crashing onto rocks on the shore of Lake Auburn Friday afternoon.  With only a little ice crunching around the shore by the Route 4 turnout, the majority of the lake is ice free, leading to the earliest declaration of "ice out." on record.

Water and slush fly into the air after crashing onto rocks on the shore of Lake Auburn Friday afternoon. With only a little ice crunching around the shore by the Route 4 turnout, the majority of the lake is ice-free, leading to the earliest declaration of “ice out.” on record.

Big news on Friday.  Stop the presses.  Ice was out on Lake Auburn.  Holy Moly!  The earliest on record. Had to go shoot a photo of course.  I really wanted to take some video when I got there.  The tinkling of the remaining ice smashing together as wind drove the last remnants of it onto the rocks would have made a cool video.  But I still had to get to CMCC to cover an unveiling of a mural for their 50th anniversary.   Boogy back to the office to process those two assignments and then off to Portland to cover a Red Claws game.  There was nobody sitting in the seat at court side directly under the basket, so I scoffed it.  Holding the camera down low and shooting up got me a cool angle.  All I had to do was wait for the right moment.  Had to fend off a few balls that came flying my way, but how cool was that. Getting paid to sit in the highest priced seat in place.  Don’t tell anybody I have the best job in the world.  Slave wages, but great working environment.

Maine Red Claws' Malcolm Miller finds a seam between Iowa's Terry Whisnant, left, Mardracus Wade, center, and D.J. Stephens , and flies to the basket during the first period of Friday night's game in Portland.

Maine Red Claws’ Malcolm Miller finds a seam between Iowa’s Terry Whisnant, left, Mardracus Wade, center, and D.J. Stephens , and flies to the basket during the first period of Friday night’s game in Portland.

Saturday we slept late, had a splendid stroll with my 4 legged lady and after lunch, headed to Freeport with the love of my life.  We cruised to Freeport and walked through Mast Landing Sanctuary and then as the sun was setting, found the coolest spot at Wolf Neck campground that leads to the beach where it was protected from the wind and in full sun.  Our new favorite spot.  For now, that is.  When the nearly 400 campsites are overflowing with people, we won’t be there.  But to have the place to ourselves, on this day.  Priceless and a memory worthy of a few photos. 031916 Wolf Neck24 031916 Wolf Neck23 031916 Wolf Neck22 031916 Wolf Neck21 031916 Wolf Neck2 031916 Wolf Neck  Looking forward to another glorious week.

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Record Breaking, Back Breaking, Pig Squealing, Sappy Week

Children squealed YES and NO in unison when Joe Gray asked if they wanted to hear his pigs squeal.  The annual Farmers Market at the Auburn Public Library featured  jams, jellies, creams, crafters, sweets and guitar playing librarian, not veggies and earth stuff like at a regular farmers market.  Little piggies running around on a blue tarp spread out in the Grand Reading Room, I was in heaven.  I was happy as a pig in shi….mud.  Cute little kids and pigs, can’t miss.   The funky chicken was a little disturbing.  Ugly as ugly gets.

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Anna Bartlett, right, 2, patiently waits with her mother Lina, to pet a 2 month old pig that Joe Gray of Valley View Farm in Auburn is holding. It was the first pig Anna had ever seen and was getting up the courage to pet her like Nevaeh Howes, 3, of Lewiston, center. The petting farm was part of Friday night’s Farmers Market at the Auburn Public Library. For more photos from the farmers market, visit sunjournal.com

I gingerly leaned over the 2 foot fence on my hands and knees.  My fancy new camera has a tilting viewfinder, so I can see what I’m shooting as I am angling the camera up from a low angle.  Andree Kehn suggested I buy this camera, and it has worked out like a charm. D750.

Earlier this week she brought me ski poles. I sent her home with her poles, but headed all the advice about helping my back get better.  You see, last Sunday I played pickle ball like a champ with some of my old friends.  I was no more sore than usual after, but when as I was walking my dog a couple hours later, I stepped off a curb just wrong and herniated a disc.  Right in front of my house.  I have been on the mend since, so when I came back to the office after the library shoot Friday night, I was greeted by an ergonomically thoughtful gesture by my cohorts at work.  All that was missing was duct tape.  Holding up my mouse pad is a vintage case containing the pool 300mm lens that mostly collects dust as the wicked sharp 400 is the cats meow and long lens of choice.RRD_3797

My wife has magical hands and is helping work out the last of the knots in my lower back.  She showed me a few new stretches and I am feeling tons better. Screenshot_2016-02-27-13-10-42

Took Allie for a long walk and recorded it with one of those new fangled apps that shows me just where I went and how long it took.  We lollygag quite a bit.  Lots to sniff you know, and a couple dogs barking in a window.20160227_114122

And lots to photograph.

When I got back home this afternoon, I checked on the results of the Big 10 Championships that my son of a different mother…and father….was competing in.  After helping his relay team win yesterday, and qualifying as the top seed in the 800, the stage was set.  Isaiah Harris blew away the field on his way to a facility, Penn State and Big 10 record performance.  He opened some eyes today! How sweet it is.  Ann cried…..of course. Sky is the limit for him.  I hope to be BACK on track myself next week.  Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.29.39 AM

 

 

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February 28, 2016 · 1:44 am

Wallet update

Two weeks after my wallet was stolen from the bank, I patiently wait for the name of the jerk who took it.  When I talked to the police officer who came to take the initial report, I told him it would be the easiest case he would ever have.  Despite having video footage from at least 2 cameras and his name, police have been unable to track him down.  “It’s not the easiest case like you thought it would be.” said Officer Laliberte on my voice mail last week.  “First of all, he could say that he just found it and was returning it.  He lives out of town and we want to talk to him about a number of burglaries.  We are looking, but so far we have not been able to catch up with him.  We will let you know when we find out any more.”

He was returning the wallet?  Yeah sure.  Instead of handing it to a teller or manager 2 feet away, he walks over to Hannaford and drops it off at the ATM machine.  I suppose my wallet fell out of his hand and the cash and blank check inside just blew away.  Oh, and the credit cards and other documents also fell out and you placed them back.  It’s the only explanation why they were all in different spots.  Certainly he didn’t just pocket the cash and blank check and rummage through everything else looking for more.  20160216_182545

Thank goodness criminals are not very bright.  I assume he wasn’t concerned with the bank cards or credit cards, although I still had them frozen.  But there was a Hannaford gift card, Office Max and several other untraceable gift cards that he COULD have taken with no way to cancel them or track down who uses them.  Guess I kinda have a last laugh of sorts.

It was my fault that I forgot my wallet on the bank counter.  But it was there all of 4 or 5 minutes that I drove out of the bank parking lot and discovered it missing.  I drove around the block and went back in to discover it gone.  What are the odds that somebody as dishonest, and stupid, would walk in during that short time-frame.  I am betting 99% of the people who came through that door on that day would have picked it up and given it to a bank employee, or simply walked past not wanting to get involved.  Just my luck.

How desperate must he have been to take it, knowing that he was being recorded.  The cameras are incredibly obvious.  I am guessing that he has a rap sheet and with the impending new burglary charges, he does not care.  Besides, his mother made him do it.

The lessons learned from this are good for me.  The time wasted changing all my account numbers sucked.  The feeling of being compromised is eerie. But I stripped down what I keep in my wallet and I am more vigilant about everything now.

I hope the police soon catch up to the guy and I can ask what he was thinking taking a wallet inside a bank, in full view of cameras.  I’m betting the response won’t be printable, but most likely entertaining.

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Lost, Found and Stolen Wallet Karma

Walking through Bates College with my dog over the past 11 years I have picked up 4 wallets, a ski pass, cash and lots of dog poop. I throw away the poop, keep most of the cash, but return everything else of value I find.  Believe it or not, on occasion I have witnessed people losing money, including a couple of years ago. I was right behind a kid coming from the Commons when he pulled out his phone and a $10 bill floated to the ground as he continued on.  I yelled, but his music must have been cranking and he couldn’t hear so I picked it up and tapped him on his shoulder.  I scared the living daylights out of him.  Wish I had it on video.Last month I found a wallet in the quad and walked it 100 yards over to the security office and dropped it off.  I didn’t know how long it would take to locate him, so I looked up Geoffrey **** on Facebook,  and found a profile of a Bates student who looked just like the ID.  I messaged him.  Within seconds, I got back:  “I was just tearing through my room! Thank you very much! Good karma always comes around.”karma

Today, I went to the bank and karma pinched me back, in the cheek.  Just like the pinch you get from your grandmother when you were young. Nice, but embarrassing as hell.

I was on cloud 9 as we got a check this afternoon for a couple hundred extra bucks that we were not expecting.  My son Chris has been so patient about not getting his broken phone fixed and now we could.  The day was looking up and it was sunny and warm out.  After cashing the check and getting a bank check for rent, I stopped at the vestibule across from the ATM in the lobby of the bank.  I set down my phone, wallet and other papers I had with me.  I put the rent into an envelope and wrote the name of my landlord, the absolute best landlord I have ever had,  George Greenwood is one of the most generous and kind guys I know.

As I drove out and stopped at the traffic light, I remembered I had filled out the insurance form for Chris’ phone and all I had to do was plug-in my credit card numbers and it would be on its way.  I looked on my front seat where all my papers, enveolopoe,  phone and wallet were and had that “oh shit moment.”  That feeling.  The second you realize……like a big rollercoaster drop, a ticklebump….heart palpitation and a sinking feeling in your stomach: I lost my wallet.

I immediately pulled over in the Hannaford parking lot and rifled through my car.  Panic begins to sink in.  Did I drop it in the parking lot?  I think back to the last time I knew I had it.  Talking to Cindy at the teller station when I stuffed the $20 bill I got back with the bank check.

It was no more than 5 minutes since I left.  I must have left it at the counter and Cindy will have it, I thought.  How embarrassing, but if there was anywhere in the world you would want to forget your wallet, the bank’s the place. I’ll take some ribbing and think about telling my wife about it.

I parked in the same spot and wondered if I had dropped it.  Fat chance I would have and not noticed my George Costanza wallet go tumbling.  Best case scenario was I had left it on the counter across from the ATM.  I would grab it, slink out,  and nobody would know of my bonehead move.  Could I be that lucky!

Of course not.  It wasn’t there, nor did Cindy have it.

I walked back to my car and tore it apart.  Nope.  Not there.   Several bank employees showed genuine concern and resolve.  They jumped into action.  A quick call to the security division and they were all over it.

As I sat in one of the cubicles waiting, I began to look around.  It had only been a few minutes since I left, so my wallet could have been in the pocket of somebody within a few feet of me.  At one point I caught myself going down the road of suspecting everyone.  Anger surfaced.  Hair on the back of my neck standing on end.  Hate.  More anger.  I was suspicious of everyone.  It could be any one of them.  But probably not.  Stop thinking evil thoughts, I told myself.

I still had an uneasiness.  As I looked around with a different perspective, instead of looking for the one who did steal my wallet, I began ruling everyone out.  But the older, weathered woman , sitting 2 feet from me, in another managers office with just a glass wall between us was screaming guilty.  I could sense uneasiness about her…..something…..suspicious????   It was probably nothing, my mind going off again.  After all, who doesn’t look uneasy when they are in a bank asking for money they don’t have, but promise to pay it back — you hope.  Been there, done that.

But somebody had to have taken it.  Or was I just a bonehead and lost it somehow.

No sooner had the old woman walked out the door, security called.  I listened to the manager talking and watched her click and begin to squint.  At that point where I figured she was looking at the video, or a photo,  I made a decision.  I would sneak a peek at the monitor.  If I asked, I know they could not legally show me the photo.  So I didn’t ask .  I just stood up and bent over and had a sneak a peek.  Sure enough, it was the old woman sitting not 2 feet away 2 minutes ago.  In the photo, the split second I glanced at it before she turned the monitor away, I noticed my suspect was talking to a young man.

The bank manager called the police.  Security video confirmed it had been taken.  But was it technically stolen?  As we waited for police to arrive,  my phone rang.  It was the Sun Journal.  Shit.  My shift just started and while I didn’t have anything scheduled at the moment, I had seen a cruiser speed past a few minutes ago Code3.  Was there breaking news I had to go cover?

“Did you lose your wallet?” said my sister on the other end of the phone.  Sarah, a customer service rep at the Sun Journal was calling.  My immediate thought was that everyone in the newsroom knew I lost my wallet and the police were coming to file a report.  I was thinking I was the laughing-stock of the newsroom as it filtered over to her.  I figured they must have heard the call for the cops to respond to the bank for a Russ Dillingham who got his wallet stolen at the bank.  Front page headlines flashed through my mind.  “Knucklehead gets wallet stolen at bank.”

“What?” my sister said.  “Somebody just dropped your wallet off at the front counter.  They said it was found at the Hannaford ATM in Auburn.”

That’s about 100 yards from the bank.

Auburn police showed up moments later and I told Officer Laliberte that this will probably be the easiest bank robbery ever solved.  And I thought to myself,  and one for the dumb criminals episodes on TV.  Who would take a wallet sitting in a bank, across from the ATM with not only the camera from the ATM looking directly at where the wallet was, but another conspicuous one on the ceiling above.  It had to be someone who really needed the money, desperate and not very smart.  Or a combination.

I feel bad for the woman or guy she was with who took it.  They had to have known there was a chance of their actions being filmed.  But perhaps they thought they would get lucky and the cameras wouldn’t be working. Or the guy who lost the wallet wouldn’t figure he lost it until later and not know it was at the bank where he lost it.

Forget the moral, ethical question.  What is the percentage of people who would return a lost wallet?  Does it depend on where you found it.  Or how much cash was in it.  Do you take the cash  and drop the wallet someplace where somebody else would find it, like they did?  Or take the cash and bury it, or toss it in the garbage?

When I returned this last wallet I found at Bates recently I had opened it up to see who was the owner.  I noticed there was no cash.  I didn’t look at cards or secret spots where he might have tucked some away, I just noticed there was none in the main compartment.  Did somebody steal it and drop it in the quad after taking the cash?  Does he think I found it and took the cash and returned it……or did it just fall out of his pocket and there was none  in the first place.  That thought crossed my mind later in the day and I contemplated messaging him to inquire.  I decided it was better not to know.  If he said there was no cash in it, my sub-conscience would be clear.  But if he said there was money in it when he lost it, how much time would I waste thinking about what he was thinking about me.  Feeling bad that he thought it was me who took it.  Should I have even contacted him.  Now he knows who I am.  Too much to contemplate.  Better to let a good deed go unturned……or something like that.  His reply about karma resonated.  Even if he thought I stole the cash, the Gods know better and my conscience is clear.

So I sit here trying to figure what exactly happened.  Officer Laliberte said to call in the morning and he would have the name of the “guy”.  Did he just pocket the cash and quickly drop it off where it could be found because they felt guilty and somebody else took the cash and turned it in.   Either way, he, or she, deserves some credit for caring enough to try to make sure I got the wallet back.

They could have dumped it in a trash can, and I would never know.  They were doing me a favor and returning the important things I had in it.

The credit cards and other items were all put back in the wrong places, so they definitely combed through my wallet.  Could they have written down the credit card numbers and start going online and buying stuff. I don’t think so.  And if so, they won’t get much.   And there were a couple of gift cards still there.  If they were going to take more than just the cash, they would certainly scoffed untraceable gift cards.

I have a gut feeling they are hoping I would get my wallet back and be happy about it, not file a police report and they would pocket the cash and be done with it.  That certainly is not the case.  The question is how far do I want to take it.  I think.

And talk about ironic.  I found a wallet last month at the drive through ATM just 50 feet from where I left mine today.  That one had cash in it.  I dropped it off at APD.  More good mojo for me.

There is a whole lot more to that story if you care to ask next time you see me.

When I left the bank to come to work tonight, I  told Officer Laliberte I wanted to talk to the person who they determined stole my wallet.  I am torn.  Do I drop any charges because it was my fault that I left the wallet in the first place and it was a temptation they could not pass up.  Or do I press charges if that is even possible.   I got a gift today, should I return the good will.  Or should I make sure they are punished for doing it, especially for being so dumb to do it

I received several gifts today, unexpected ones that should not have happened, yet made a big difference in my life.  I also lost and got my wallet back and learned a big lesson from this ordeal.  Should I return the good will.  Put more good karma in the bank, or should I make sure they are punished for being dishonest and dumb.

I think I’ll go home, kiss my wife, hug my only son left at home, scratch my dog’s belly, have a beer and think about it. Well….probably leave out hugging my son.  Knuckles or high-five goes over a little better with a 16 year old.

 

 

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Don’t give up, until you fall in

Sitting at my desk Wednesday afternoon,  listening to callers tell me about the latest mystery photo, I missed the scanner traffic about a snowmobiler who fell through the ice on Hooper Pond in Greene.  Fortunately, our web guru, Carl Natale didn’t and came over to ask if I had heard the call.  “The guy is out of the water and walked to the road already and is waiting for rescue to show up, so it’s probably nothing, but I didn’t know if you wanted to go check it out.”

I had plenty of photos from other assignments and a video needing to be processed, but I have a thing for spot news and headed out.  On the way, I passed an ambulance heading back into town and figured I was too late.  I was.  There were lots of tire tracks in the parking lot of the small rec area, but nobody around.  I parked and walked down to the pond to see if anybody was out there, but nada.  As I was pulling out of the lot, trying not to get stuck in the deep snow, a pickup pulled up and parked on the side of the road.  I struck up a conversation with the man and discovered it was the father of the 19 year old that fell through.

He told me the boy called him after falling in.  He had taken a wrong turn at the fork in the trail after coming back from filling up with gas and ended up on the brook that runs out of the pond and doesn’t freeze over until late in the winter.  We thought we could see the machine on the far side of the lake and he started walking toward it.  Naturally, I followed, both of us hugging the shoreline.  I let him get ahead of me and when a big swirl of snow was kicking up across the way, I made the photo that was the best at the end of the day that would accompany a small story we pumped out online as soon as I got back and eventually ran small on the front page the next morning.

As we neared the mouth of the brook, we realized what we thought was the sled was a block of ice.  We could see his son’s footprints coming out of the brook, and began to follow, but still staying close to shore. But it was a bog, and there was no real “shore.”   After about 20 feet, we both broke through the ice and decided that was far enough and turned back.  It was a soggy and cold return trip.  He headed for the hospital to check on his son and I headed home to change before going back to the office to process the photos and write up what I found.

Mark L'Italien follows the shoreline of Hooper Pond in Greene Wednesday afternoon in search of the snowmobile his son Drew was on when it went through the ice.  After walking to the end where it turns into Hooper Brook, he broke through ice and turned back and drove to the hospital to check on his son.  "He called me when he was walking out and I told him to call 911.  He was coming back from getting gas and took the wrong trail and ended up on the brook that doesn't freeze over until later in the year." said L'Italien as he headed back to his truck. "And I just finished getting it fixed."

Mark L’Italien follows the shoreline of Hooper Pond in Greene Wednesday afternoon in search of the snowmobile his son Drew was on when it went through the ice. After walking to the end where it turns into Hooper Brook, he broke through ice and turned back and drove to the hospital to check on his son. “He called me when he was walking out and I told him to call 911. He was coming back from getting gas and took the wrong trail and ended up on the brook that doesn’t freeze over until later in the year.” said L’Italien as he headed back to his truck. “And I just finished getting it fixed.”

The next day I had a message on my office voicemail.  It was from a warden that one of our reporters received after he called to get more information on the event.  In the message he said it was not that big of a deal.  The snowmobile never sank, it just was stuck after going through the ice and the rider only got  wet up to his knees.  For the warden, it was probably no big deal considering he has probably seen his fair share of fatalities surrounding this very scenario.  However,  I am sure it was a big deal to Drew L’Italian when he was going through it.  I know just going through the ice where I knew it wouldn’t be very deep took my breath away.  I can’t imagine what was going through this young man’s mind.

However, what scared me the most was some of the crass, heartless and ignorant comments that were written on social media.  It was an accident.  He took a wrong turn and got into trouble.  It amazes me the amount of heartless comments I read on facebook, twitter, and our website.  People are so quick to judge and pontificate.  In the past 35 years of being a photojournalist I have seen the good, bad and ugly.  Many people make mistakes and pay for them with their lives.  Some do stupid things and escape without a scratch.  While I admit we can be cynical and flippant back at the office, I always try to be compassionate when commenting online.  I just wish more people would think before they clicked send.

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