Notes from New York: If you see something
Posted by metaphorical on 28 February 2007
89th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues was blocked off by the police today, and when I got up to 2nd Avenue I saw that it too was blocked from 88th to 89th Street. I saw three fire department vehicles, four cop cars, and at least a dozen members of the two services, including the three cops at 1st and 89th. I had asked one of them what was up.
She was the kind of cop I like in New York; she managed convey “What are you gonna do?” without showing it in her voice in any way. Maybe she moved an eyebrow up just a hair, or tilted her head ever so slightly.
What are we going to do? People will call 911; we’re exhorted to do so at every turn and on every subway ride. “If you see something, say something.” Personally, if I don’t see blood or the green slime from “Outbreak” oozing out of a package, I’m probably not saying anything, but not everyone is so reluctant.
Once, I was in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, waiting at a gate for my flight to board, and a guy got up to buy a soda or use the bathroom or something. I guess he thought he’d be back in just a moment and wasn’t, but within a couple of minutes someone had called over the cops because of the unattended bag. I don’t know why he hadn’t make eye contact with someone sitting nearby and say, “I’ll be right back, can you watch this for a moment?” I’ve done that for others and asked it myself, it’s not hard. Whatever. You should be able to buy a can of pop, as they say in Chicago, at a newsstand 100 yards away without imminent arrest.
The other day, the Lexington Avenue subway had a “smoke condition,” either due to the usual refuse on the tracks, or our second and probably last sudden icy snowstorm of the year, or some interplay between the two. I barely missed it but a colleague who normally gets to work a few minutes later than me said there was near-complete chaos on the streets as people were expelled from the subway and looked for the additional buses the city ran.
If terrorists or freedom fighters or anyone else working the suspicious package angle really wants to disrupt the city, the subways are the way to go. The bagel shops and Chinese take-out at 2nd Avenue and 89th Street probably aren’t ever going to be high-priority targets. Unfortunately, the police have only one level of response, or if they do modulate it at all, their lowest level is still pretty damned high. So in the meantime, if you see something, say something only if you think the trade-off in closed streets, cops in full-body flak-coats, and idled firetrucks is worth it.