site index

Picture of the Day
 | today tomorrow

December 11, 2006

slender thread of justice
The building has no number
I can see but the metal detectors
are a giveaway. I remove belt, place camera,
wallet, and keys in grey plastic tray. They take
my Swiss army knife keychain and give me a claim
check (3176). I'd been expecting a large dark theater
with a stage, like a casting call, but instead got a big
fluorescent room with lavender puke pattern carpet and cushioned
arm chairs. The room is bureaucracy incarnate, bland and rectilinear,
with some publicly funded art hanging on the walls, not much different
than a hotel chain except there is an earnest artist statement describing
process and effect, the picture plane, and ambiguity of position of the objects
placed in it--in this case a bird silhouette. It is something to read while standing
in line waiting to be processed, but the art feels tacked on, lipstick on a pumpkin.

The winding line moves. I grab a badge protector from a box, fill out a form, hand
it in and join the wait. There's a separate room for wi-fi users, laptops in effect, it's
pretty packed. It's the 21st century and people carry their offices as turtles do their
shells. It serves a similar protective function--our technology is a barrier against
those who might otherwise speak to us. We're tapping into a wide world of tele-
communication while oblivious to those sitting right there.

I wonder whose name among the 200 assembled will be called first, thinking it
might as well be mine and I'm right--Robert Zevernia is called #1. Sometimes it
happens that way. Once, my bag was the first down the chute at an airport
baggage claim. Another time it was dead last. First and last is the sum of
birth and death, everything else falls in the grey muddle between.

15 of us go up in two elevators. I don't look too closely at my peers.
Down a hall to a room where the coffee smells hot and burnt and people
take turns using the bathroom. We're told to turn off our phones. I think
everybody has one. One woman asks, "Is silent OK?" The answer is no;
no external communication is allowed. I shut down. In parting, Cingular
reminds me: "Be Courteous. Be Safe." Be safe? What does that mean?
An older man asks if anyone is "techy enough" to help him turn off his
phone. Turns out he's an electrical engineer who worked on atom bombs.
Someone helps him, explaining, "You just hold the red button down."
I wish him luck turning it back on, though I suspect we're all better off off.

the arctic building down the street is a sight