Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Skyscraper Security

Today I was reminded once again how challenging it can be to get in and out of Manhattan office buildings. If you haven't had an occasion to visit an office in a fancy Manhattan building, don't think you can just walk in, locate the elevator and ascend to your designated floor. Our appointment was with a lawyer at 6th Avenue and 53rd Street to get our "estate" in order, but before we could get up to him we had to run the gauntlet of 21st century New York City security. First, we displayed our driver's licenses, then we provided the exact, full name of the professional we would be meeting with, third, we dutifully turned over our passports, next we offered proof of our annual income after taxes for 2012, and finally they respectfully requested that we officially pledge our fealty to the United States of America by signing their special loyalty oath.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't quite that hard, but it felt like it was as we waited patiently to be "cleared." Once we were given the go-ahead to proceed, we even had to take a special pass with us in case we were stopped by overzealous security officers wondering what we were doing wandering the hallways of the 28th floor, the very floor where our lawyer happened to reside.

All of this reminds me of something I did as an irresponsible young adult many, many years ago the first time I lived in New York, long before everyone was so careful about security. I was in midtown and intrigued by the idea of visiting the offices of ABC television news just to see what was going on up there. That's about how much thought I had put into it, but I remember there was no one preventing me from going ahead with this plan to take the elevator to the floor where the news was aired each night. I went to the bathroom and wandered around for awhile, but for a few minutes I went completely unnoticed. When security did finally ask me what I was up to, I simply replied honestly that I was curious to see what the offices of ABC News looked like. I am sure that if I had put some thought into my answer I could have received a better reaction, but my vagueness definitely aroused concern. They nicely but expediently escorted me out of the building. I never did anything like that again.

Still, it rankles me just a little that today so much effort is put into decisions about who can enter and exit a luxury office building in Manhattan, and so little into how we treat people who are left abandoned on the streets and expected, despite the complete absence of even the most minimal of resources, to fend for themselves.

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