It jus’ goes to show you that if you give a person a colorful shirt and a fancy lanyard with a special ID, you have the makings of a fascist. In years past, because I don’t generally attend Hot August Nights (HAN) events, I don’t get to witness the behavior of the organization’s volunteers.
A few years back I had to go 12 blocks out of my way to get around a ‘road block’ being enforced by one of these volunteers. He stopped me from entering traffic on Victorian Avenue in Sparks because I was not in a ‘classic vehicle.’ No, I was working, delivering pizza to make ends meet while in between jobs.
No one cared when I complained then and I doubt anyone with care now, after the treatment I received from two HAN volunteers in downtown Reno. Twice, they threatened to have the police arrest me because I was in the middle of South Virginia Street with other photographers, taking pictures of the cars and trucks as they passed in review.
The first incident came when one photographer, in a green shirt and wearing a lanyard with some sort of ID on it, told me – not asked – told me to get out of the street. I told him I didn’t have to get out of the street because it is public property. He walked away, threatening to call the cops.
At that point he did everything in his power to block my shot of any vehicle. I eventually fell-back half a block to continue taking pictures unencumbered.
A few minutes later a woman approaches me and demands I get out of the street for safety reasons. I told her no, too.
“I don’t want you to get run over,” she claimed.
“By who?” I asked, adding, “You mean the cars that are passing one either side of us and not touching the passing lane that separates the travel lanes?”
“Yes!” she yelled at me.
“So – what are you and all these other people covered in some sort of pixy dust that makes you immune to being run over?” I asked in true smart-ass form.
“I’m calling the cops,” she declared.
“Good! Go ahead. The number’s 9-1-1,” I shot back, adding, “I have as much right to the street as you or anyone else at this event.”
She walked away and the police never arrived. I continued to take pictures as I had been, though I missed several great looking car and trucks due to her interference.
Now, this is where it gets interesting (at least for me) as the man who first told me to get out of the street came up to me from my right side and screamed at me to get out of the street. He drew right up into my face as if he were trying to scare me or caused me to feel intimidated.
It didn’t succeed as I drew even closer to him, nearly touching his nose with mine and said, quietly, “Please get out of my face, sir, and you’d best make the decision to do so quickly.”
“Or what?” he stated childishly.
“I’ll be forced to beat you to death with your fancy camera in front of all these witnesses,” I answered in a voice he could only hear.
He blinked and swallowed hard. I maintained my composure and an unblinking stare as he backed away and stated he too was calling the law.
For a third time, they didn’t arrive.
He spent the next few minutes harassing me by stepping in front of me as I tried to take pictures. He failed again and again and finally gave up.
But his counterpart was more hard-headed and continued to try injecting herself in front of my camera. Finally, “I shouted, “Hey, Blondie, get your fat-ass out-of-the-way!” much to the delight of the spectators lining the sidewalk, who clapped and cheered.
She walked back to where she had come from and soon disappeared from sight. Figuring I had pushed the envelope far enough for the day, I started back north along South Virginia, continuing to snap shots of vehicles while heading for my truck.
Of course, what those HAN volunteers did to me is nothing compared to what the City of Reno did to local business before the start of the weeks-plus long event. The A&W at Kietzke and Plumb Lane, which has been a mainstay for HAN attendees, was force to close it’s door at 11 pm, though the restaurant had remained open past 11 pm during the event in past years.
Why? Well, the city suddenly claimed a so-called land-use zoning for the area only allows businesses to be open from six am to 11 pm.
They did however offer A&W a Special-Use Permit allowing them to stay open beyond their government-imposed curfew. Nice of them to offer something that comes with a six-week completion time period and a business-killing fee of $2,500.