Thursday, May 05, 2005

Better Safe

This morning when I turned on NY1 news, I saw Third Avenue and 51st Street cordoned off and surrounded by cops. Two homemade grenades had blown up a planter and shattered a facade in front of the building that houses, among other things, the British Embassy. Britain is having their national elections today.

"So," I asked the TV as I poured my coffee, "any injuries?" No, I answered myself, there was nobody around, it was four in the morning, and if there had been deaths/injuries the story would have led with that.

"Al Qaeda?" No, they blow up themselves, not shrubbery.

"Is this gonna make me late for work?" Probably not, it's one stop past where I have to go.

An hour later, while I was doing my Dynabands, the mayor made an appearance on the scene. He said that the security in New York was tighter than ever.

"The person standing next to you may be a police officer and you wouldn't even know it." (Hey, occifer, I'm an upstanding citizen; I don't smoke that stuff no more.)

It always helps in this city to have something of a "Spidey Sense": If it feels weird, trust your instincts, even if it makes you look like a paranoid. This was true even before 9/11. There are these six-foot tanks of oxygen and nitrogen that are sometimes left on street corners by, I don't know, construction crews or Con Ed or somebody. They're probably perfectly safe, but every time I walk past one I'm always afraid it will blow up and kill me or leave me permanently deaf or looking like Two-Face.

In September/October of 2001, during the time of the anthrax scares, we got a lumpy #10 envelope in the mail. There was no return address, and it was addressed to my husband's mother, who had died in 1999 and who had never lived at our address.

We took it immediately around the corner to the Sixth Precinct, where an Officer Rodriguez obligingly put on rubber gloves and gave it a perfunctory examination.

"You got the Band Aid," he said.

"The what?" Maybe it's a code name...Carlos the Jackal...Albert the Band Aid.

"Hey, they got the Band Aid," Officer Rodriguez called to his compatriots. "Oh yeah, they're all over the neighborhood," came an answer.

He opened the envelope and out fell a Band Aid. It was part of a mass mailing from a dentist who was looking for new patients.

My husband and I felt like a couple of Birchers who'd thought they'd trapped the Red Menace under the bed. "Oh...sorry to take up your time."

"No problem! It's the guy's fault who sent this. He should have put a return address."

There were no further unidentified lumpy envelopes, and shortly after that, you didn't hear about any more anthrax scares.

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