… the news headlines could have read if I was an actual terrorist.
I was on my way out of the office and heading for the South Ferry 1 train. I noticed a group of three NYPD officers standing to the right of the turnstiles with their sign saying they can ask to search bags leaning up against the decorative gating. I see this from the bottom of the steps at the old N and R entrance and so I prepare myself for the possible bag search request.
Lately there has been an obvious increase in the frequency of these stations. Perhaps its a result of the grants from the federal government to expand the city security theater or something related to the recent stimulus bill. I don’t know and I’m not going to chat it up with one of the blue light gang to see if they know either.
So I always carry with me a cheap digital camera just in case I need to snap a photo of the growing police state or an official abusing their so called authority. Near the Metrocard machines at the N/R entrance I took the camera out of my pocket, made sure it was on video mode, and turned it on. Or so I thought.
As I walk toward the turnstiles and the officers a young woman with a large bass in a case with a single wheel walks out in from of a pillar and I pause to let her go around me. As that is occurring I’m tucking my copy of Ludwig Von Mises’ Socialism under my left arm pit so my left hand was free to take the Metrocard out of the sheath I keep in my right pocket in which I store my work ID and government transportation cards. Before the woman is able to get around me I hear: “HEY BUDD!” I know its directed at me since a prior survey of those walking with me showed no one else with a bag. I ignore it and continue to reach for my card but have yet to move forward again from stopping for the bassist. “HEY!” I hear again. I hesitate for what was not more than 500ms but surely felt longer in order to decide if I should respond or play deaf. I turned and with a innocent but slightly concerned and questioning look said: “Excuse me?”
I don’t recall if it was “Can we” or “We need to” “check your bag.”
I’ve gone through this situation before and in one case a far more intimidating scenario where I had already gone through the turnstile and was absolutely the only person around except for the officers standing three feet in front of me demanding to look through my things. So I’ve done mental exercises in hopes of better handling a similar encounter in the future. Maybe something to the effect: “For what reason? Under what authority? Do you have a warrant? Why can’t I use the subway? What if I just go down the street to the next station? What’s your name and badge number?” Unfortunately that all went out the window when I was in the spotlight and it came time for my response.
I say with a completely different demeanor from a second early, one of seriousness and likely contempt: “No.”
“You’re going to have to leave the subway then.”
Acting ignorant… “Can’t go over there either?” Pointing to the N/R entrance.
“No. Gotta go outside.”
While this back and forth occurred I had turned to the right to face them and meandered a little to their left. To collect myself and put away my Metrocard. I notice the other office who was not behind the table talking to me but to his left was getting real close to me as if to escort me out. He didn’t lead me out but did follow me as I slowly walked toward where I entered. I kept peaking back and he eventually stopped and starred me down as I walked up the steps.
I started down the street toward the Bowling Green station. Turning back occasionally to see if I was being followed. After less than a block I decided I wasn’t in the mood to put up with that or take the Green line to Grand Central Station and then go to Port Authority by way of the Shuttle. I was already running late and given that the news of the MotorhomeDiaries crew’s arrest and imprisonment was still trickling out I wanted to get home as soon as possible.
So I turned around… headed back down the steps carefully checking to see if the officers were watching for me or in my direction. The way they were positioned give them the ability to see all those who entered so if I was going to get onto a train I needed to be careful or face arrest. So I waited a few minutes for a crowd to come down the steps and followed it to the turnstiles of the N/R and walked through down to the platform and onto the train. There was a slight scare when a couple stops down the train was held for several minutes without a reason and I noticed some officers on the south bound side looking around. But the doors eventually shut and I made it home with an elevated heart rate but otherwise untouched by the actors of the police state that is NYC.
So as I and many others have said hundreds of times before… baggage checks are nothing but security theater. In this instance I pushed it and entered the same station secretly but other times before the new South Ferry 1/N/R station combo I would be denied entry to the 1 and then just walk back across the street to the N/R and head uptown without a hitch. It’s extraordinarily ridiculous. If I’m rejected at 1… I’d suspect I’m not legally allowed to enter the N/R or any other station. Do they expect that once you are denied entry once that you can never ride again? If I’m a terrorist and am on my way to blow some train station up and am actually stopped… what keeps me from just going to the next station or waiting a few minutes and hiding in a crowd as it enters? Shouldn’t that officer followed me until I was off the island? It’s a big joke… on the public. They get to pay taxes to further oppress themselves with absolutely no gain. At least in Benjamin Franklin’s quote he assumed that the individual was giving up freedom for more security. In our case it is freedom for less security and explicit tyranny.
So my camera turned out not to be recording for the beginning of the brief conversation. I caught only the last of it and then I have a bunch of subway noise from when I made my reentrance. In the future I’ll just turn it on before I go in and leave it on. I’m thinking a digital audio recorder with an extended mic with a clip that I could have on my shirt would be better or maybe an audio/video recording wrist watch.
I’m going to try to better prepare myself for my next encounter by going over my script more and when I see the officers stationed in front of the enterance again I will pause, collect myself, go over the plan, start the recorder, breath deeply, and then go in. We’ll see…
Such quality customer service. If only they had split the people into 3 lines this never would have happened I’m sure. Or maybe it’s the old white uniforms they may have been wearing. They need the darker blue ones with badges to feel the confidence not to harass the fliers.