October 8, 2001
Head Count

 


 
The receptionist stopped us as we breezed past the front desk.

"Dave!" she called out urgently. "I'm going to need you to sign in your guest!"

David and I stopped cold in our tracks, directly in front of the elevator, and turned to face her. He flashed the receptionist a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry," he said, taking me by the hand and leading me back to the lobby, where he introduced the two of us to each other ("Darlene, this is my wife, Secra"). He explained to her that I had a job interview around the corner, later in the morning. 

"Secra's going to hang out with me upstairs until the interview," he said, tucking his arm around my waist affectionately.

I smiled at Darlene ... my twinkliest, perkiest, See? I'm perfectly harmless smile.

She was friendly but firm. "I'm still going to need you to sign in," she said, and she pushed the log book towards me. I obligingly signed my name, date, time of check-in, purpose of visit (Visiting husband). As I handed the book back to her, she smiled grimly. "New procedure," she said apologetically. "We're all still trying to get used to it."

"Don't worry about it," I said reassuringly. "I totally understand." And I smiled at her again ... my most cooperative, patriotic, I promise I'm not here to blow up your building smile.

As David and I rode the elevator upstairs to the bazillionth floor, I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. "Do I look dangerous?" I asked, only partially in jest. In my natty little gray interview suit and my That Girl 'do  --  tiny American flag pinned to my jacket lapel  --  I looked about as menacing as an elementary school librarian. I wasn't upset about being asked to sign in. I was simply surprised. In all the times I've visited David at his office, I can't recall ever being stopped and questioned this way. Under the circumstances, of course, I can totally understand why it would be necessary now. We're talking about a large office building in a major metropolitan area of the United States. Of course they're going to want to keep a careful eye on who enters the building ... and why.

David shook his head. "That's not the only reason they ask everybody to sign in," he said, his voice weighted with meaning.

It took a minute or two for it to register, but when it finally hit me, it hit like a cannonball in the gut. They ask everybody to sign in so they know how many 'souls' are in the building ... just in case they have reason to be counting, later. And I felt the bottom of my stomach drop away as the elevator continued its lurching vertical ascent to the bazillionth floor.

This living in fear stuff is going to take some getting used to.



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