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."]