It takes a lot to be called out for weirdness in New York – and then have it reaffirmed by David Bowie’s son. I can only assume his retweet is what made dozens of people weigh in with comments like “Maybe he comes from the future” and “he’s hacking you right now.” (Well, his retweet and the pained expression on my face.)
To the woman who tweeted, “I’ve seen that exact same guy. Wtf is he doing… extreme creep,” allow me to explain. No, I am not an “air novelist,” as someone else suggested. The truth is, my time felt precious because I had a music video shoot that night – and so, on the very long train ride between Harlem and Chinatown, I decided to type some notes for a screenplay, using a Bluetooth keyboard and THE PHONE IN MY POCKET.
I’m pretty sure the tweeting began while I was still on the 2 train. Before even reaching my stop, Ben Lerman, a self-described “tailgate connoisseur, whiskey sommelier, and lover of sandwiches,” posted the above photo and followed up with this video.
— Ben Lerman (@blerms) April 2, 2016
Immediate follow-up questions were inevitable: “What’s his WPM? Accuracy? Ulterior motive?”
Then the tweets started trending, and, by the end of the weekend, a couple friends brought them to my attention upon recognizing me. (The same thing used to happen to a lesser degree when I modeled for stock photography to pay my rent.)
If I knew I was being photographed I would have sat with better posture.
I still can’t believe a snapshot of me made the rounds the same weekend that the Panama Papers were published and a comedian got himself photographed on the L reading a book called Ass Eating Made Simple (for a viral video stunt). It was far from a slow news cycle for voyeurism.
There’s been a recent public outcry to shame manspreading, and it’s ironic, right? I squeezed into the smallest spot on that train, yet still got photographed by strangers.
Adding to the irony, the screenplay I was taking notes for was about surveillance – inspired by some of the more nightmarish scenarios I encountered directing a sci-fi, art-house film in China with Ai Weiwei.
I’ve also seen the Laura Poitras “Astro Noise” exhibit at the Whitney twice, so I knew to look over my shoulder – just not nearly over enough.
It’s easy to call out hypocrisy when, as a society, we’re equally quick to champion Edward Snowden with one hand while, with the other, we share anonymous, judgmental photos of our neighbors under the playful guise of social media.
But who am I to judge? I photograph people on public transit all the time.
So, maybe I owe my fellow straphangers some answers.
First off, Ben Lerman, I want you on my side. Let me know if you’d like a letter of recommendation for a future career working for (or outside) a government (or rogue state) anywhere in the world (or for shooting second unit on Person of Interest).
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) April 3, 2016
Duncan Jones – I love Moon.
— North Starr Vintage (@northstarrrs) April 2, 2016
@northstarrrs ew, I'm sorry :\
— Logan (@PlagueLovers) April 2, 2016
North Starr Vintage and Logan – I am watching you both right now.
— davidthoughts (@davidthoughts) April 3, 2016
Davidthoughts – Mavis Beacon IS a harsh mistress.
— Dave Astels (@dastels_gaming) April 4, 2016
— Matt Berry (@MattBerry05) April 2, 2016
Dave Astels and Matt Berry – If you see something, say something.
@blerms he's actually sat in his top floor office writing a novel and we are all the characters appearing around him as he writes the scene.
— Andrew O'Dell (@odellandy) April 4, 2016
Andrew O’Dell – Wait… I’ve never discussed this with anyone… how did you…?
@blerms I bet this guy is fully vaccinated
— Neil W (@64ink) April 2, 2016
Neil W – Yes.
And to everyone below: Yes, I am from the future, and, occasionally, I plug into the matrix to control everyone and set the city back on course. I’m still saving up to buy a screen.
— TheWalkingAbed (@TheWalkingAbed) April 5, 2016
— Pissed Off Pixies (@pissedoffpixies) April 3, 2016
— Felipe Arratia (@farratia) April 3, 2016
— Barend Henselmans (@groteB) April 3, 2016
— QuattoLlives (@HedNekaNcharge) April 2, 2016
— Hol83 (@FrankSallerie) April 2, 2016
Finally, my advice to the poor girl caught by @blerm eating rotisserie chicken with her fingers but retweeted a mere four times – next time, be more furtive with your private business.
Sometimes you just have to eat a rotisserie chicken with your hands on the subway. pic.twitter.com/ndHc8IKLWA
— Ben Lerman (@blerms) July 3, 2015
Jason Wishnow mocks people in private, because he is a gentleman.