Business as UNusual

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Business as UNusual

By Wil A. Emerson

Today I'm dressed like a conservative mid-town housewife. That is, black slacks, white long sleeved shirt, flat shoes and a large gray/black Coach purse. Sunglasses, rain or shine, and often a department store shopping bag to round off the image. I've foregone the extra tote bag today because of an unofficial threat in the area. Both hands need to be ready for fight or flight. I prepare to enter a basement apartment on Lennox, two blocks from the United Nations private parking area, by taking a discrete glance in both directions and then a sharp, swift turn of the neck to assess my backside. It's mostly out of habit. Like a moonwalk, every step is carefully measured and always on alert for the unexpected.

Cautious? To an extreme. While some now believe New York is the safest place in the world, I know that at any moment my day could turn into utter chaos. I was eighteen and living in Michigan when the World Trade Center, in a relative flash, toppled as though struck by a trillion bolts of lightning. Dust and debris throughout Manhattan. The pictures linger, a vivid minute-to-minute reel continues to play in my head. My family and I sat by the television around the clock in those early days, only leaving our chairs for short spurts of sleep, eat and dire necessities. It fostered fears but shaped my determination.

So one might conclude by my actions I live in this three story Brownstone as I pull a key from my purse. A dog barks as I open the door. A welcome greeting comes from a tall, brown haired man and is followed by a warm but quick embrace. A husbandly gesture. I pause for a moment, as if in no rush to close the door.

In this abode, time is irrelevant. I keep my own pace, stick to my business. There are no clocks to acknowledge or ignore as none are in sight. Beyond the foyer, the room is illuminated with at least twenty computers that tell me everything I need to know about time and place. No televisions to distort the images or the truth. A maze of technology that can only be navigated by an MIT nerd with a Master's degree and an empty date book. Alien ground for a typical housewife.

I remove a Sig Sauer from my purse and place in on the table by my designated circle of computers on the right where the weapon sits until I move to the first upper floor and prepare my dinner. My greeter has already started his meal. I can smell saffron, turmeric and onions for his rice. My partner is a Vegan. I prefer a grilled steak—the Mid-Westerner carnivore demands it. When he offers me a portion of his rice, I'll accept but he never takes a morsel of the charred beef.

On the second and third floor of this domain are three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Plenty of room for a growing family. However, there will be no babies, no toddlers, no teens running through these halls. In fact, if a juvenile arrived on the premises, it would necessitate a relocation. A situation of that magnitude would certainly upset our purpose. A breech that couldn't easily be explained because every precaution has been taken by us to prevent such an occurrence.

As I log into my computer, I hear a loud boom from the street. Footsteps thunder across the room above me. More rattle down the stairs from the third and second floor. I grab the Sig and take a stance and wait for my compatriots to gather beside me. The screens of the various computers light up. We don't actually hold our breath but we are ready for the worse possible scenario.

We gather in front of the enlightened screens to see what will be revealed by multiple cameras strategically placed around the United Nation building. Focused on figures on the street, automobiles, a passing truck, we anticipate the worse.

A yellow cab, an irate driver. A blown tire. We accept the usual.

I go back to my station. My compatriots go back to their resting places. In thirty minutes we'll change shift. Watchdogs for the unexpected.

Tomorrow, I'll wear jeans, an NYU sweatshirt and black and blue sneakers. My thick red hair in a ponytail. My sunglasses will be red framed. My book bag loaded with my faithful Sig and two active, secure cell phones. And before I close the door, my assigned duty is to reset the dog bark alarm.

UN surveillance as usual.


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