Security trumps freedom in the terrorist-heavy Battle Creek

I spent three hours in Battle Creek today, and, in that time, I only spoke with one person. The man I spoke with was a security guard, standing outside of what was formerly the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which now, ironically enough, happens to be a federal building. I had Arlo with me. (He and I were exploring the city, while Linette was in a meeting.) I’d been looking for somewhere to buy a sandwich, when Arlo decided to have one of his watery poop explosions, and I thought, naively, that the federal building standing a few yards in the distance might be a relatively decent place to change a diaper. When I approached the guard standing outside, and told him of my intentions, he snapped, “You’re not going to do that in here.” I politely asked, why, as I’m a tax-paying citizen of the United States, and it’s a publicly-owned building, I couldn’t enter. Staring at me though dark glasses, he responded, “People want to blow up federal buildings.” I offered to let him search my bag, and asked for a more thorough explanation as to why, as an American citizen, I couldn’t enter. At this point, he essentially dared me to try to get past him, saving, “You think you know the law better than me… go ahead and try (to get in).” Not wanting for Arlo to get his first taste of pepper spray, I turned the stroller around and left.

It’s wasn’t a huge deal. I ended up just walking a few blocks away, to a small patch of grass, on the banks of the Battle Creek River, and changing Arlo’s diaper there, in the shadow of the ruins of Cereal City. It was actually really nice. Arlo got to enjoy being completely naked outside for the first time in his life, and I got to post nasty comments about my new security guard friend on Facebook.

Here’s my favorite response to my rant on Facebook. It comes from my friend, Andy.

I had no clue that Battle Crick was a hot spot for terrorism. I will avoid that city in the future since it sounds dangerous.

I should probably mention at this point that I’m well aware of the threat of anti-government terrorism. I remember when the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed. And I think that it’s reasonable to take precautions to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. But, I thought… and I guess I was naive… that placing armed security guards at the entrance of such buildings was, in and of itself, a sufficient precaution. I mean, it would seem to me that the reason you’d hire a security guard would be to determine whether or not a person seeking entry posed a threat. But, I guess, in order to do that, you’d have to actually train your security guards, and invest in them. Instead, from what I saw in Battle Creek, the job seems to be that of low-wage security company goons, hired to intimidate anyone that approaches without an employee badge.

I know this isn’t a big deal compared to everything else going on in the world, but I don’t like bad customer service, and that’s essentially what this came down to. I approached this guy, when no one else was around, when he didn’t have anyone else to deal with, pushing a beautiful, little baby in a stroller… granted, he smelled like shit… and I was essentially dared, after exchanging just a few polite sentences, to push my way past him, and suffer the consequences. It was surreal… Anyway, thanks for hearing me out… And, remember – Don’t go to Battle Creek. As Andy says, it’s dangerous.

Oh, and one more thing… It boils my ass that we’re paying for guards there, when we’re pulling cops off the street elsewhere in Michigan, where people really are being killed every day. But, I guess the people of inner city Detroit don’t really matter as much as low level bureaucrats who shuffle papers for the VA.

And, again, I’m not saying that precautions shouldn’t be taken. I can see discouraging people from entering without reason, building barricades to keep trucks away, checking bags, etc. I just think it’s silly to act as though the Battle Creek federal building is like a U.S. military base… I may be wrong about this, but my guess is that more people, over the past ten years, have been killed in post offices than in federal office complexes, and yet, somehow, post offices remain open to the the public.

One more thing… The last federal office that I remember being attacked, if I’m not mistaken, was hit by a small aircraft in Texas. In short, if someone really wanted to attack this building, a power-tripping hired goon at the door probably isn’t going to stop them. And, even if he were, there’s always going to be something else to blow up. If a federal building is sufficiently secured, the terrorists will just go to the Jewish school down the street, for instance, like they did a few days ago in France. It’s something that we used to talk about a lot in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but I don’t really hear much about it anymore… How much freedom are we willing to give up as a nation for the illusion of being safe?

But, here’s the bottom line… If you going to run a police state, at least make sure your jackbooted thugs are trained in customer service.

Oh, and I also got to drive through a cloud of Fruit Loops, which was nice.

[note: I just checked the website for Battle Creek’s Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, and here’s what they say about gaining entry… “All visitors must submit to security screening and present a valid identity card (such as a state driver’s license or federal ID) before entering the building.”]

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  1. Burt Reynolds
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    As a government employee, you screwed the pooch by playing the taxpayer card. Government employees hate that bullshit. Everybody benefits from taxpayers, not just public employees. With that said, you nailed it by changing the diaper by a river. Arlo got to feel wind on his balls. Something us grownups never have the chance to do anymore.

  2. Posted March 22, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The best thing about Battle Creek is Arcadia Brewing Company.

  3. Walt
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t let you into my building. I don’t see why anyone in Grand Rapids would either.

    (The rest of your family is always welcome.)

  4. Edward
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    In defense of the guard Arlo is bi-racial.

  5. Eel
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    You’re naive, Burt, if you don’t think that Mark took the opportunity to air his balls out as well.

    And, yes, we live in a police state.

  6. Ken
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    You had weapons grade watery diarrhea…I wouldn’t of let you in either.

  7. K2
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    We did have an underwear bomber.

    It’s just a matter of time before they acquire the technology for a diaper bomb.

  8. anonymous
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I have an endless supply of poop-filled diapers. Just give me the address, and I’ll ship them off to the gentleman.

  9. Knox
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    We’re a nation of fearful cowards.

  10. Elf
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Security around federal buildings is tighter than Joan Rivers’ post-reconstruction vagina.

  11. Meta
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    This essay, entitled “The myth of freedom in the land of the free” my be of interest.

  12. artic butt man
    Posted March 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Who goes to a town for three hours and only speaks to one person? Is that normal?

  13. James Madison
    Posted March 24, 2012 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    It’s perfectly possible to visit many American cities and towns now for three hours and have no chance to talk to a person. Many of the cities are losing population and places of social interaction.

    But Battlecreek isn’t all bad. The graveyard with the grave of Sojourner Truth, the great African American of the 19th century, is well worth visiting! She lived for roughly 20 years in Battlecreek, but was born a slave in New York state’s Hudson River valley around 1797. Her first language was Dutch, and never lived in the South, and always spoke with a Dutch New York accent (not the southern dialect that she’s made to have in accounts of her famous but never given “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech). But in visiting Sojourner’s resting place, you may well not see anyone to talk too, but probably you won’t be stopped by a security guard either.

  14. Aaron
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    You should’ve stopped by The Griffin, in Downtown BC. It’s a very friendly pub!

  15. anonymous
    Posted March 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Next time, take your spray paint.

  16. Mike
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    You should really do your homework – if you went to the website, it’s not a VA site, it’s for DLA, who supplies the military. There’s a lot of sensitive info in the site. If you’re allowed in, EVERYONE would be allowed in. It’s silly to think that you’re obligated to go wherever you want because you pay taxes. Do you go into any FBI or CIA building you want? Military base?

  17. PadawanDoug
    Posted October 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Am currently reading “The Road to Wellville” and the similarities of this incident to the focus of J H Kellogg on bodily functions is ironic, funny and sad at the same time. (The book takes place in Battle Creek, where Kellogg had his Sanatarium.)

    The best thing I can say about Michigan is that growing up there made me want to leave. If I’d grown up someplace better, I might not have seen as much of the world!

  18. Posted January 14, 2015 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    JD has no idea who he punched. This is not your ordinary security guard. Just hope he didn’t mess with guard’s bike also. I’m not surprised the T/U is also clueless about guard’s affiliation.

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