Wednesday, August 03, 2005
A Suspicious Object
While a delightful East Indian lab tech was extracting some blood from me this morning in the Davies Hospital lab, a "Code Red" was announced over the speaker system along with "this is not a drill, this is a real alert." "What's a Code Red?" I asked him. "A fire," he replied. As it turned out, it was a completely false alarm, with some miserable character having pulled a fire alarm on the second floor and as I left, the fire engines were driving away from the entrance to the hospital.
Returning to the Civic Center, where I live at the corner of Franklin and McAllister streets, there was more phony mayhem. At about 3PM, a small contingent of police and Department of Parking and Traffic guys were keeping cars and pedestrians off of McAllister Street between Van Ness and Polk. "What's going on?" I asked, and they replied that "a suspicious object" had been found. "And WE'RE not checking it out."
The police in San Francisco, at least compared to what I grew up with in Southern California, are a pretty mellow lot. Many of them are as lazy as can be and the department itself doesn't solve many crimes, but that's okay too. Anyway, the group in these photos were genuinely friendly, particularly when I told them I lived in the neighborhood.
I went home and worked for an hour before deciding to check out how the situation was evolving. I asked one of the policeman if City Hall was open and to my amazement it was, but that one had to cross Van Ness and walk on the Opera House side, and then enter through the Grove Street basement entrance.
Inside City Hall, it was as if nothing was happening outside. In fact, quite a few people I told about the situation had no idea it was even occurring.
I have an acquaintance who works for a City Supervisor, whose names will remain anonymous, and he let me take a few photos from the second floor windows directly above where there was supposed to be "a suspicious object."
If anybody should have been evacuated, it was the people working in those half a dozen Supervisors' offices that overlooked McAllister Street.
It also made clear the ridiculousness of redirecting bus routes, pedestrians, and cars for a "suspicious object." In half an hour, the police presence had quadrupled and the taboo areas for pedestrians had expanded to include the block I live on.
There were a few creepy cops who had joined the party who obviously loved yelling at people and ordering them around. They were in heaven.
This policeman was one of them, and the person waiting for a bus was trying to sneak by. It didn't work.
Still, I really wasn't prepared for the very masculine, presumably lesbian cop who was standing on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building who yelled, "Keep it moving." I replied that I lived here, and she yelled, "so get inside!" My response was "Excuse me?"
And then she walked over, got in my face, fingered her handcuffs and said, "Do you want to be arrested and taken to jail? Then get inside." My response was "Okay, but first I want to take your picture." which caused her to turn around and leave.
This is a note for Heather Fong, San Francisco's police chief. This cop needs some retraining. Her communication skills are not winning your department any friends.
In fact, when I went back to my apartment to resume work, all I could hear was her horrible voice carrying four stories into my apartment. "You! Get back! Move!" At first, I started yelling back, "Shut up!" but decided to be civilized and put on Terry Riley's "In C," a classical minimalist masterpiece from the 1960s by a local composer. And I played it loud.
There was an interesting coda, where this well-dressed gentleman actually intimidated this awful woman, and she let him through. I have no idea who he might be but it was obviously Somebody Important.
At about 5PM I heard a small boom that wasn't as loud as some of the firecrackers in the neighborhood during the latest Fourth of July weekend and by 6PM the show was over. And let me say it right here and right now. Just using a bit of common sense, the chances of my being injured or killed by a local policeman/BART cop/security guy is probably about 100 times more likely than my being injured or killed by a "terrorist." This is just silly and dangerous.