Friday, August 13, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Fall's first chill was still a distant breeze on the horizon, but the morning air held the promise of the inevitable. The summer had been sweltering, the kind of heat and humidity that makes a man in a suit rush to the safety of the air conditioned office. Better to have some objective to focus on and ignore the discomfort than to linger in the oppression of the heating pad that was the atmosphere.
He puffed out his last breath of freedom as he felt the moderated temperature on his neck. The revolving door to his workplace beckoned about as welcomingly as spinning knives in an abbatoir. He cheeks went from relaxed mushes to rictus-infused planes as the pod he stepped into rotated inside: first at seven o'clock, then nine, until his work mask was fully in place as the door panel reached twelve and he stepped into the entrance.
The lobby, cold beige marble with a stone tile floor, was hardly the sort of lobby an architect would design now. It forbade talking, for example, as words echoed to all corners. It radiated cold, a feeling enhanced by the over-conditioned air that was welcome when temperatures were in the 90s at 8 AM just weeks earlier, but now felt almost Nordic with temperatures hovering around 70.
He reached into his pocket and fished for his building ID. A sad fact of the events of the past ten years was that many if not most public buildings had enhanced security, not just buildings that were prime terror targets anyway. Even a crappy old insignificant building as this one, at the end of a backwater street across from a far more intriguing target, felt self-important enough to warrant at least three layers of security.
"I suppose it makes sense that Al Qaeda would attack this shitty old building, since the train station across the street is so much more selective of who they let in," he sarcastically remarked to his boss when the new turnstiles were installed.
He swiped his passcard over the sensor in the turnstile on this Friday. As all workers are wont to do at the end of the week, the turnstile mulled over the imposition on its rest and with a whine, zipped open after a hestitation that made it clear it was doing him a favor by letting him in. 
The man, tall and middle-aged with a bit of a paunch but otherwise in pretty good shape, shambled to the elevator bank, and mashed the "Up" button. And waited. And waited. Holding his passcard in his hand, he continued to wait as he watched the numbers on the dispatch board count backwards to 1. 
The doors parted, and he stepped in. One of the few modern amenities in the building was the information screen, which would flash everything from breaking news to stock market activity to teasers for recipes found on its website. He studied the stories with a jaundiced eye. Nothing came as a surprise to him anymore. Well, rarely...
1) Russia is fueling Iran's nuclear reactor. This is probably good news for John McCain's flagging Presidential campaign of two years ago.
2) Energy costs are rising, despite the fact that fewer people drive cars, and fewer people are taking travel vacations. Speculation over the Gulf spill? An attempt to exploit weakness in the consumer market?
3) There's a new superbug infesting hospitals in Europe and Asia that may be nastier than MRSA. It will have a widespread strike here sooner rather than later (it was reported in North Carolina in 1999, and has been identified in 24 states). Count on it. This one is so powerful that a new drug that's proven very effective against MRSA can't stop it. It seems to have started in India. Oddly enough, a not-insignificant percentage of surgical outsourcing from the US is given to India.
You read that correctly: surgical outsourcing. Insurance companies have found it cheaper in some instances to send a patient to India for surgery than to keep them here in the States.
We can't buy our pharmaceuticals from Canada but a mastectomy in Mumbai is on the table.
4) Yea. "Do No Evil."  Right. 
5) "I'll take the Whopper, and 40 mg of Lipitor, please." 
6) Your "awwwwwwwwww" moment. 
7) Re: The Cordoba Center in lower Manhattan, two hundred yards from the Trade Center site. Mayor Mike says it more eloquently than I ever could. I've had seriously disputes with his position on many things, like cuts in services to the poorest of the poor of the city in a time of lean, but in this I admire his stance. A few observations.
First, this is about as religious a site as any publich hospital that maintains a chapel. It's more like a YMCA or YMHA, both of which NYC contains, neither of which has that overt a religious message, both of which maintain family friendly atmospheres and safe havens for children after school.
Second, it's a privately-owned building being sold to a private organization. Just as the Empire State Building has every right to deny honoring Mother Teresa's birthday, we should keep in mind that these protests serve little in the way of prevention.  
Third, it's defiling "sacred ground" the way the strip clubs that surround the site are, and the way the economically-themed office buildings that are being built there do. Meaning, it ain't!
Fourth, the imam who wants to open the center stood shoulder to shoulder with his fellow Americans after the attacks. He has said some (mildly) controversial things about Hamas and Israel, but nothing that a thinking person hasn't thought on his own time: Hamas is not wholly evil, they feed and shelter Lebanese made homeless in the incessant battles with Israel and the abuses by Syria, and Israel is no saint when it comes to dealing with Muslims, Palestinians in particular.
Finally, the people who live down there, the people this would most impact and the people who were most scarred by the attacks WANT THE FUCKING THING BUILT! So all you red-staters, including you faux Noo Yawkahs who can't see past the color of your skin or the book your pastor preaches from, STFU, mmmmmmmmmmmK?
8) Trying to remember that Calvin & Hobbes strip where the kid did that thing that the stuffed tiger laughed about, but can only remember bits and pieces? There's an app for that. 
9) Apparently, God is without sin and has cast the first stones.
10) Ignert Amuricans give me little hope for brotherhood. Do they even know that Muslims worship Jesus, too, just not, you know, as a Savior?