Carol J. Stensrud


As I do most mornings after setting up for the Gibson Street Artisan Market, I walked down to the end of the block to Jo’s Coffee Shop, where the line frequently extends beyond the curb, and into the busy street that is South Congress.   On this particular morning, a brightly dressed woman, talking loudly on her cell phone, not particularly being rude, but with more of a “I don’t really care what anyone thinks about what I have to say” attitude, came walking up to Jo’s.  At once she told whoever was on the other end of the line to “hold on a second” and then proceeded to let everyone in line know that instead of extending the line out into the dangerous street, that they should wrap it around the corner so as to not block the sidewalk.  It made sense.  Not to mention that standing in a busy street before you’ve had your morning fix of caffeine probably isn’t very smart.  No one moved.  She wasn’t giving up though.  She stood her ground around the corner and let us all know once again that we weren’t doing it the right way and that she was simply trying to help us.  No one could deny her logic.  I know I couldn’t.  And with that, the line slowly and reluctantly snaked its way out of the avenue and onto the safe curb of James Street.

Now I’m not one who’s been too particular of shooting street portraits when I hit the pavement with my camera, but in this moment, I felt compelled to try something different, to extend my normal boundaries, and to venture into a whole new realm.  I wanted to take her picture.  But having a deep seeded fear of approaching strangers, I chickened out.  And it’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity.  She stood directly behind me for the entire 15-20 minutes that we waited in that line.  I could have turned around at any moment and started a conversation.  But I didn’t.  I felt defeated.  I ordered my tea, paid, and walked around to the pick up window.  I decided to sit at the bar while waiting for my tea to brew.  I was looking over a few shots I had taken earlier that morning when I heard a familiar voice say “That’s a real nice camera you got there.  It’s big!”  I looked up.  It was her.  In an instant, I knew what I had to do.  This wasn’t coincidence.  I immediately knew I was being given a second chance to face my fear.  And without hesitation, I smiled at her and began to tell her about my not so great Nikon D200.  We talked for 10-15 minutes about things such as art, books, and the influx of hipsters in Austin in recent years.  Somewhere in there I asked her if I could take her picture.  She gladly obliged.


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