Help me figure out this odd encounter w/woman & baby.

This thing’s been nagging at me for the past week, and I don’t exactly know why.

Last Monday I was sitting on a little park bench near the Roosevelt Island Tram here in NYC, checking my email on a drizzly day. I was interrupted by this youngish woman (I’m notoriously bad at judging age, but I wanna say… late 20s/early 30s?) carrying a baby, probably about a year old. Woman was dressed well, so was baby.

Anyway, the woman asked me, while holding out her own phone: “Excuse me, could you do me a favor? Would you take a picture of me with my baby? I don’t have any pictures of the two of us.”

I looked up and saw the abovementioned woman & kid. No one else was around. She was smiling and apologetic, and I returned the smile and said, “of course, no problem.”

I did immediately think: wait, why doesn’t she have any pictures of herself with her kid? Did she just escape an Amish community or something? Or maybe she just adopted the girl. Although they kinda looked alike.

Anyway, she gave me her phone and then walked about ten feet away from me. When I looked through the phone, they looked tiny in the distance, and because I suck at smartphone cameras, I didn’t know how to do a close-up. So I walked closer to them so the shot would be a normal mid-range image, a nice clear shot of both their faces.

She thanked me but then said, “I’m sorry, could you go back there and take the picture from where you were before?”

I said, “Oh, sure, I’m sorry. It’s just that it’s pretty hard to see you guys…”

She just said “It’s okay, could you anyway?”

So, yeah, I went back and took the picture. But more and more I was feeling… I don’t know. Something was off, but for the life of me I couldn’t articulate what was bothering me.

Anyway that was it, I gave back the phone, she thanked me, and walked away. End of thrilling anecdote.

And yet… the whole thing felt so weird and it’s been gnawing at me ever since. The thing is, I really can’t figure out why it’s bothering me, maybe because I can’t think of a reason why this woman wanted a photo of her and her baby from such a specific distance.

Points to note:

  1. My first thought was… is this a pickpocketing scam? Y’know, where she’d distract me while her partner grabs my wallet? But no, there wasn’t anyone else nearby, and my bag was untouched. (I had it around my shoulder with the bag in front, they’d have to be pretty damn good to steal anything from me in that context. And they didn’t.)

  2. Okay, so was she a tourist who liked the tram a lot? Nope. From where she was standing, the background of the pic was just some stores and benches.

  3. The whole time, what kept nagging at me was the weirdest feeling that this wasn’t really her child and it was a kidnapping. (I know, melodramatic, but what can I say, I write mysteries.) There was literally no reason or proof, but I’ll tell you, I pretty much memorized this woman’s face (it helps that she looked very much like a younger, slightly prettier version of Maggie Wheeler).

Ignoring the silly mystery option, it still seems hinky to me.

Okay after all this preamble, I guess my first question is… does this seem odd to anyone else? If so, why? What is it that’s pinging the strangeometer?

The other question is, why would she want the full-body shot where the kid and her were tiny, rather than a close-up–especially considering that she said she had no pictures of the two of them? Any guesses?

(The best idea I could come up with was that maybe she recently lost the baby weight and wanted a picture to show off her body? Seems lame–especially since, why tell me the lie about this being the only photo of her and her kid? But you never know.)

Thoughts? Hmm, I suppose question #3 would be: considering that I felt weird about this but took the photo anyway, was I wrong to do so? Was there any other way I could have reacted to ease my bizarre concerns? Should I have asked the kid’s name in a chatty way, or how old she was, or even snuck my own photo of the two of them as they walked away? Am I as nutso as I sound? (Don’t answer that one, I already know what you’ll say! :D)

Was there something in the background of the shot that she wanted to get a picture of?

Not really anything scenic. Behind her were some other benches, a couple of anemic trees, and farther back (probably 30 feet from where she was) a few shops.

If she’d wanted the shot from the other direction–where she could’ve been seen against the backdrop of the tram across the East River, or the 59th Street Bridge–I’d’ve understood. But this was so blah, I can’t see why she’d be interested in that scenery.


That said, I don’t find it too odd that she didn’t have a photo of the two of them. I have precious few myself and kiddo- as momma, I’m the one always taking the pictures (and thus not in them), and babies are really bad at selfies.

It’s a ransom pic!! :eek:

Also, I’ve found some cultures tend to prefer full-length photos, though I’m blanking on which ones specifically.

Perhaps she was the Aunt rather than the mother and doesn’t visit often? Out for a stroll and thought a shot of her in NY . . . I don’t know, honestly, it seems weird to me too. I’ll be mulling it over with you now. It’s really only the distance that seems odd. Unless she was wearing a new coat she wanted full view in the picture.

Maybe she needs to prove she is out and about with the baby for some reason-- perhaps her husband is accusing her of cheating and she wants to send him a pic to prove she isn’t someplace unexpected.

In this day of ubiquitous cell phones/cameras I do find it exceedingly odd that she claimed to have no pictures of the two of them. The only way I can figure this is if her house burned down or she was a refugee or something. Even the poorest people in the U.S. have access to cheap digital photography. You said the baby looked a year old, which is bordering on toddlerhood.
As a children’s librarian, I have very sensitive radar when it comes to kids and their set and setting. Without being there, I can’t say, but it does seem odd and the incident would probably prey on my mind, too. The claim of having no photos and her wanting the photo from a certain (not too close) distance would probably leave me feeling exactly as you do. But we’ll never know what was up with this situation, will we?

Oh yeah, that’ll work. :smiley:
Who the hell was taking that photo, bitch! :smack:

Well, thanks guys–at least now I know I’m not completely bonkers for finding this curious!

That’s a good point! Still, the kid was so still and well-behaved, the way the woman was holding out her phone to me one-handed, she could’ve just as easily taken a selfie of the two of them.

Plus, you do say you have a few; this chick said she had none. (Of course, she could’ve been exaggerating, but it didn’t come off that way. If she’d said something to the effect of, “It’s ridiculous, I have, like, no photos of the two of us!” I would’ve figured she was just using hyperbole. But she said it straightforwardly: “I don’t have any photos of me and my baby.” Still could be hyperbole but if so, her reading was way off! :smiley:

Honestly, that’s the first thing I thought of, even before the much-more-likely pickpocketing thing.

Heh. If I were to guess her culture, it’d be the same as mine, which is: Long Island or Westchester Jewish princess. :smiley: (Well, I have the first three anyway.) Which makes it even harder to believe she has no photos of her and her kid, because the current generation of young upper-middle-class moms are damn likely not just to get a photo of themselves and their bairn, but a professional studio shot for $750.

I was thinking of that possibility too, because it makes almost everything make sense (except the distance issue). But I’m about 95% sure she said “my baby” rather than “the baby.” Besides, if I were taking my niece out for a walk and referred to her, I’m almost sure I’d still call her “my baby niece” or “my little niece” or similar. Can’t imagine just saying “the baby.” Then again, everyone’s different so who knows, that could very well be the case.

Exactly–the distance thing was odder than the “no pics of my baby” thing. She was wearing an ivory-colored down jacket that stopped at her hips (yes, I memorized what she was wearing, I’m that [del]creepy[/del] paranoid), so even a mid-level shot would’ve gotten the coat in full view. Of course it could be the jeans or maybe boots/shoes…

There’s probably an unbelievably banal reason for all this. I wonder what this stranger whom I’ll never see again would say if she knew that she’d caused such speculation! :smiley:

Ooooh, DAMN that’s a good one! I mean, almost certainly not true, but I can’t believe I didn’t come up with it myself, being a soap fan! I should be ashamed of myself.

Yeah and this woman sure didn’t look like a refugee, except maybe from nearby Bloomingdales.

Like I said I’m reeeeally bad at age estimating, maybe especially with babies/young kids, but she certainly looked older than six months but younger than 2. I know that’s a big range, but kids change so much and I don’t have one of my own to know the stages that well. I’d say from what I remember of her size she seemed maybe… 2.5 feet tall, if she’d been standing?

Now that I think of it… it’s also strange that she didn’t have a stroller. So she was probably not from very far away, unless it’s easier to schlep a kid in your arms than mess around with a stroller if you’re using public transit.

I know. Thank you for validating my angst! And yes, the worst part is that this story will never be solved!

(Should I reveal that I actually went and looked up any missing babies from last week in the NYC area? How nutty does that make me look? Eh, I’ve already outted myself as a wacko over the years here, might as well go Full Crackpot.)

Heh, and another good point.

I have no pictures of me and my kids as babies. I’m a bit camera shy and somehow it just worked out that way.

A few more theories:

she’s giving the baby up for adoption
She’s running away with another man and leaving the kid
She’s been somewhere else (hospital, armed services, Doctors without borders) and just came home to visit her child.
She just found out that she’s got cancer and wanted a specific image to leave for her child.

Hopefully it was innocent. It’s funny how moments stick in your mind sometimes.

She’s there every day. Her husband was killed a couple days before the baby was born by a taxi coming off the bridge.

Actually, she was there solely to collect your fingerprints. The confusion over distance was a simple device aimed at making you handle the phone for a longer period.

Or maybe it was some sort of scam, abandoned when it became obvious that you weren’t an easy mark.

Most likely explanation, though, is that she’s a nutter. City is full of them, God love it.

I’m sure you’re right in that there is probably some banal explanation, but that doesn’t change the fact that that was a seriously fucking weird encounter.

That’s the one. She was expecting you to put your bag down when she said to step back, farther away, and when you didn’t, she called an audible and aborted the mission. There is NO reason she should have no pictures of her and her kid, assuming it is her kid, and like you said, take a selfie!

I live in NYC too so I stand by this theory 100%, haha. But also, I would have most certainly said, albeit not in an unkind way, “You don’t have any pictures of you and your kid?”, because my curiosity would have gotten the better of me.

On second thought, I concur with D.Diddy.

I have few pictures of me with my kids either - I’m the parent who’s good at taking photos so it tends to be me behind the camera. So not strange at all that she wanted a photo taken with the kid.

The take the photo from exactly there thing is a little odd, but perhaps she wanted a nice full length shot, or she was trying to replicate a shot of her as a kid with a parent? Not sure but I’m sure the answer is actually pretty mundane, but more fun to speculate!

Maybe it was a brand new phone and she didn’t have any pictures on that phone yet? Doesn’t explain the distance thing, though.

Or maybe, just maybe: She us one if us who finds the entire concept of a ‘selfie’ to be reprehensible.

Who came up with the idea “I am so incredibly interesting that I should record not only everything I see/do, but the pics MUST have me as the primary focus”?

I have about a dozen different lenses for my camera - including ones which will focus down to 6" from the subject.
Many people have these kinds of lenses.

Did you ever see people taking ‘selfies’ before the cell phone grew cameras?

‘Selfies’ are a very, very disquieting phenomena.