Friday, October 26, 2007

My ridiculous encounter

A couple of years ago, I was out for a noontime run on a hot summer day in DC. Sweat was pouring off of me. I was wearing my Asics, socks and running shorts.

I ran across the Mall and down 14th Street. To reach the Tidal Basin to run, I decided to cut through to 15th Street on the Holocaust Museum walkway between that somber edifice and the Forest Service building. The Forest Service are the folks with the friendly Smokey the Bear mascot.

I started to cut across a tiny corner of the USDA parking lot, which is the Forest Service's umbrella agency. The brick-paved footpath skirting the north end of the Holocaust Museum was mere feet away.

"Hey, you! Stop!"

Stupidly, I stopped. I was fifteen feet into the Forest Service's domain, their parking lot, and ten feet from the freedom of the Holocaust Museum's bench-lined pathway.

A guard came out of the little gate-building which controlled vehicular access to the little parking lot. He was armed.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to get to 15th Street." I waved to the nearby footpath.

"You can't be here. Let's see some I.D." Barney's thumbs were hooked into his Sam Browne belt. A second guard materialized next to him. Fife's thumbs were hooked into his Sam Browne belt.

I was stumped. Droplets of sweat spattered to the ground beneath me. I mentally surveyed myself, a male runner on a hot steamy day. Let's see, I.D., back at the security desk of my agency awaiting my return. Running shorts, no pockets. Socks, nothing in them. Running shoes, well maybe...

"Here," I offered, pointing to the Runner's I.D. tag laced into my right Asic. "That says who I am."

The guard seemed interested. I lifted my foot a couple of feet and showed him the custom tag on my shoe. My name was printed on it, along with five other lines of text. The name and phone number of my sister in Ohio. The name of a marathon these particular shoes had been through, followed by a time and a date. The initials of my agency with the place designation of DC. A line nodding to my estranged son Danny.

The guard leaned over to read the tiny print. The second guard watched the first guard watch my shoe. If I'd a had a weapon, I could have taken them both right then.

"Who are you, Peter or Danny? Or Kate?"

"I'm Peter. The one on top." The conversation was absolutely inane.

Barney straightened up and looked into my face. Fife followed his cue and his eyes bored into mine.

Maybe they were simulatedly practicing matching a real photo I.D. with face recognition technique. Or maybe hundreds of glanced-at photos of Al Qaeda fighters were rapidly whirring through their minds as they stared at me.

"Okay, you can go. Don't you be coming through here again though."

There is one parking lot in DC that I know is really safe.


Danielle in Iowa said...

Maybe they were worried you would start a forest fire in their parking lot :-)

Susan said...

How odd!

I am enjoying your encounter stories. You tell them well!

Bex said...

DC's finest! Good story.