By Amanda Gentry*
I was a late Snapchat bloomer.
At 26-years-old and a third-year PhD student, I downloaded the app. I still rely on either Cazey or my 16-year-old brother to help me navigate the features.
Now that I have Snapchat, it’s my favorite app. One of my favorite pastimes is observing and discussing the appearance and actions of strangers. Before you label me a judgmental, pretentious snot, please understand: I’m a compassionate, understanding human. I just enjoy people watching and using my imagination to deduce things about their lives. Snapchat allows me to capture some of my more interesting subjects and share them with friends. I hope you can see how harmless this is…harmless, assuming you’re decently skilled in subtle picture-taking. As it turns out, I’m not.
Last week, I was writing my dissertation proposal at bar in the Starbucks on Robinson St. in Richmond. Situated in the midst of the Fan District, this Starbucks is a prime people-watching perch – especially since the bar allows you to sit directly in the front window, overlooking the sidewalk.
As I studiously drafted my proposal (or maybe I was browsing Pinterest recipes…), two girls walking past the window caught my eye. A couple of perky twenty-somethings, I immediately noticed the jeans of the one walking closest to the window. To say her jeans were ripped would give the wrong impression; these were destroyed. One leg featured a hole from above the pocket to the knee, tatters flapping about in between. As a person who makes zero courageous fashion choices, I was intrigued.
She and her pal entered the Starbucks, ordered their beverages, and sat on the cozy chairs directly behind me. I stole a glance – it was perfect. She was facing me, engaged on her own phone, her outfit in full view. The ripped jeans were actually pretty snazzy, combined with some sort of shirt, and a wicked gorgeous necklace. I snatched my phone from my bag and rotated in my seat. I nonchalantly pretended to text for a few seconds while I opened my Snapchat and focused on ripped-jeans gal.
Positioned in the window as I was, the sun reflecting off my screen made it difficult to see the picture I was snapping. I just pointed my phone in her general direction and clicked. Turning back, I checked to see how the picture looked.
I had taken an excellent picture. An excellent picture of this courageous fashionista staring directly into the lens, holding a peace sign and making a kissy face.
Darny-darn-darn. I had been found out. As a shy and non-charismatic introvert, this sort of thing is nightmare material for me.
I turned to look at her. Thank God she was smiling.
I tried to laugh. “Thanks! I wanted to share your sweet outfit with a friend,” I said, praying that we could laugh about this and move on…preferably very quickly so I could leave and drive off a cliff.
“Ya! You want a real one?” She seemed not the least bit miffed. “Here, I’ll pose for you.”
Who is this kid and why is she being so cool about this? was all I could think.
I laughed and agreed. She posed, quite expertly, so I could get the full effect of her trendy get-up.
“Thanks for being so cool about this and not thinking me some sort of creeper…I really like your outfit.”
“Do you really like it? I don’t know, I just threw it together. I just put things on…but thanks!”
She was so bubbly and warm, I was confused. Did she really not mind that I was trying to take a sneaky snap of her without permission?
“It’s great. I have no fashion sense or skill to dress myself. My friends don’t even trust me to shop alone,” I confessed.
“Oh I understand; it’s okay! I love putting things together. That’s my friend over there,” she pointed to her companion, “and she doesn’t dress herself either. I take her shopping all the time! We should go shopping sometime, I would totally help you pick things out! I’m always up for shopping, just call me and I’ll go with you to help you.”
She and Cazey would get along well, I thought; they both speak at twelve times the pace of normal humans.
She continued: “Why did you want my picture? Do you blog? Oh, I want a picture of this outfit for my blog! Will you send me the picture you took? Here’s my number. And I’m serious, we should shop sometime!”
I got her number (and her name), sent her the picture, and then thanked her a few more times for being so cool before she and her friend left. If you had been in that Starbucks, you would have observed me puzzling in stunned silence for at least ten minutes thereafter.
As I’ve considered this experience since, I’ve concluded that the moral of this story is twofold:
- Do not attempt to snap a stranger unless you are truly certain you can execute it without detection.
- We should all endeavor to be more like my impeccably dressed friend. Be generous of spirit, be bold and outgoing, laugh, and be kind to strangers, even when they creep on you with Snapchat.
*Amanda is a returning guest blogger and an eternal graduate student and mother of one 80-lb lap dog. When not banging her head against her desk, she may be found drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee, modge-podging magazines pictures like a 5-year old, and sneaking kale into meals she cooks for her husband. She tweets at @AmandaEGentry. If you're interested in writing for ATOB, contact us at AsToldOverBrunch@gmail.com.