After three years, it is time to formally introduce myself.
You know me already, of course — or parts of me. The visor of my BKYN baseball cap, say. Or my slightly slumped right shoulder. Or my cool Impulse! t-shirt that I sometimes wear on Fridays, featuring the logo of a defunct jazz record label. Or maybe my brown leather backpack.
My name is Thom — pronounced Tom (so you don’t have to say the ‘h,’ okay, people from France?) — and I’m the big, beefy guy who photo-bombed you on the Brooklyn Bridge.
The first thing I want to say is, I didn’t do it on purpose.
I’m not like that smug, bald-headed jogger with a nerdy glasses strap holding his hard-shell frames in place who runs the Bridge on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve seen him actually turn around, mid-jog, and give a grinning thumbs up to ruin — or make, depending on your view of photo-bombing — someone’s picture.
I do not do that. Ever.
Well, that’s not totally true. One evening there was huge, slow-moving group wearing hideous, bright yellow ROAD SCHOLAR hats who took up the entire pedestrian side of the walkway, reducing foot traffic to a crawl and forcing anyone who wanted to pass into the Bridge’s terrifying bike lane, or as I like to call it, EMT Boulevard.
With the Road Scholars, I lingered, waiting for them to get to the Manhattan-side tower, where, predictably, they massed and posed — with me! Yes, I was there on the fringe, grinning like a maniac.
Then there was the happy-looking Asian couple wearing matching I ♥ New York t-shirts. I saw the selfie-stick go up, their bodies shifting into position. She giggled and turned her pretty face to meet his smitten smile. What a great moment. I sped up, I admit it! They smooched and I was there behind them. Winking.
And once, a girl, a teen, wearing a “STOP WAITING FOR FRIDAY” t-shirt took a selfie and I accelerated so that I was right beside her — I could see myself in her camera screen — when she clicked. I almost asked her to text me a copy.
But that’s it, I swear. I even have rules for my crossings:
- Just walk and be natural.
- Never slow or speed up just to be in a photo.
- Stay in touch with my core while walking, per my Alexander instructor.
Sticking to these principles — with exception of the incidents above — means I’ve bombed your photos because you love the bridge, the sights, your family and friends, your phones and cameras and, yes, your selves and your selfie-sticks. And because I walk across the span twice a day.
So I like to think of my appearance in your photos as kismet.
Either that, or the bridge is just too fucking crowded.
I figure I appear in a picture every thirty feet during my walk across the bridge. Since the bridge is 5,989 feet long, give or take a few inches, that means I’m in 200 pictures during each crossing. And since I walk the bridge twice a day, I’m averaging 400 photos a day.
You’re thinking, come on, Thom-pronounced-Tom! Nobody is taking pictures at the beginning of the walkway on the Manhattan side! Plus, the entire Brooklyn side has a LOT less foot traffic than the Manhattan side — because many tourists just walk to the first bridge tower and double back.
So, yes, there are dead zones where you can walk 100 feet and not bomb a single photo. But my numbers are solid. Trust me. I get paid a ridiculous amount of money to “do” web analytics for a startup.
When people take pictures, they take more than just one, they take, like, five, or at least the camera on my phone does. There is also a wisdom-of-crowds factor to consider. If one person poses, other tourists start to pose, too, because the spot has now been deemed photo-worthy. And that ensuing photo-onslaught — with multiple shots being taken in a matter of seconds, means I appear in TWICE as many photos, which gets me up to 800 pictures a day. Or as I like to think of it, supermodel numbers!
Sometimes tourists ask me to take their picture, which is the opposite of photo-bombing. But it’s the least I can do, what with me being in all your pictures. One evening a very blonde young woman with a Polish accent and an angular face asked me to take her picture.
I pointed her camera at her, trying to frame her unsymmetrical face against the backdrop of the bridge, that most symmetrical of structures, and lower Manhattan skyline behind her, and, just before snapping the picture, I said, “jak się masz?”
But my brilliant Polish query — “how are you?” — was met, not with a smile, but with this:
“In Poland we just say ‘cheese.’”
Then she smiled and I took her picture. Touché, Polish woman! I wished her a nice visit and walked on.
Now that you know who I am, I hope you’ll leave me in your photos instead of cropping me out. If you were thinking of deleting the photo because my elbow or sweaty forehead is in the frame, I urge you to keep it, because that picture captures the precise moment you crossed paths with the most photographed man in New York.
That’s a picture worth keeping and even sharing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Not to mention, Google Plus, Weibo, Renren, Orkut, Skyrock, Mixi, Cyworld, Ibibo, and other social media.
Anyway, so nice to finally meet you!