Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Weird World of Woolworth

Get Shorty

Woolworth stores were once an American institution, but I haven't seen one in the USA for years. Apparently, Woolworth still does business in Mexico. 

When I spotted this store during my walk through Puerto Vallarta, I pulled my camera out of the bag and took a few photos. I thought that friends of a certain age might be tickled to see a Woolworth store still in operation. 

The road in front of the store was busy. I decided to wait for a couple of minute to see whether the car and pedestrian traffic might clear. That's when things started to become interesting.

a photo of a woolworth store in puerto vallarta
Woolworth Store - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

A short, mustached man wearing a hat and sunglasses called out as he raced toward me from across the street.

"Sir! Sir!"

Photographers learn quickly that when someone addresses you as "Sir" or "Ma'am" as you're shooting, their intention is not to be polite. It's confrontational.

"What are you waiting for, Sir?"

I decided not to ignore the man.

"Sir! Why are you taking pictures?"

Smile if you must, but keep ignoring the confrontational pest. It drives them crazy.

"English?" the man demanded when I didn't respond. "¿Español?"

"Sí, Español," I confirmed without making eye contact. 

He rambled on for a bit in Spanish. I continued to ignore him.

"Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" yelled Shorty as he raced across the street. 

There was a pay phone on the corner near the entrance to the store. Shorty called someone and spoke to them in a very agitated manner. He waved his arms, pointed back at me, and made hand gestures like someone shooting a camera.

One can only guess why Shorty was so upset. If he had been associated with the store, he would have sent an employee or a security guard to speak with me. If he were an official, he would have sent the police.

My guess is that Shorty may have been engaged in some illicit activity. Perhaps the street in front of the store is a drop off point for contraband. Anything is possible in Mexico.

Undaunted, I walked into Woolworth and did some shopping. There was no sign of Shorty when I came back out. I walked around town for the rest of the day without incident. 

It's important to be careful in Mexico and in all of Latin America. Crime rates south of the border are staggering. Luckily, this time I was able to avoid trouble simply by remaining cool and refusing to engage with this character. It was broad daylight on a busy street, so I didn't expect an armed confrontation. Things get more serious after dark.

Be careful out there. There's going to be a "Shorty" character just about anywhere you travel, and he'll be watching you.

Camera: Nikon D810
Lens:     Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED

Light happens. Be ready. Shoot hard.

Copyright © 2016 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

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