Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Midtown Lockdown

Having lived in New York for almost two years now, I thought I had seen it all: crazy people talking to themselves in the park; scammers pulling switcher-a-roos on people's Metro (subway) cards; little girl playing "Shoot the Freak" carnival game at Coney Island (she was trying to shoot a live person wearing armor); bikers jousting on crazy tall bikes; dude who looked like a real-life version of Mario from the Super Mario Brothers game, kids breakdancing on moving subway trains; huge anti-war rallies with funny, clever signs.

However, what I saw last week in midtown during the UN General Assembly was altogether something else. Because leaders from all over the world came to the UN to represent their countries, I was not surprised to see the 10 or so blocks around the UN crawling with NYPD officers, secret service personnel, and other intimidating authority types wearing black suits, aviator shades and headsets. I was slightly annoyed but prepared when I was stopped on 45th St. by a cop who asked for my ID while I headed toward the laundromat with 13 shirts in my hands. After all, didn't he know that any terrorist worth his Jihadi fervor would have gotten around his 45th St. dragnet by walking down 46th St. instead, where identification was NOT being checked? I was however NOT expecting to go into my usual Monday morning meeting on the 13th floor and spot two in-position sniper rifles on the roof of the building next door. Supposedly, the police snipers were there to protect the president of Pakistan, who was staying at the Roosevelt Hotel next door. These guys had binoculars bigger than their own sizable heads and paced on the edge of the roof (which must be at least 11 or 12 stories tall) as nonchalantly as if they were taking a stroll in Central Park. They even leaned over the edge to look down below! I was almost tempted to call in a threat just to see what they would do. If I were tired at a morning meeting, the worst thing that could happen is one of the managing directors yelling at me for not answering a question coherently. These guys could plunge a few hundred feet to their deaths if they were having a bad day. What a difference a career makes.