In our post-9/11 era, entering a federal facility is security-wise about the same as boarding a plane. Every piece of metal on your body (including your belt) and (in my case) my backpack has to run through the scanner. It’s a routine I’ve been dealing with either monthly (initially) or bi-monthly (now) at the Eastern District building pursuant to my pretrial probation.
The first time I arrived it was in a suit and tie (to impress the judge with a show of respect). Predictably, the guards addressed me as “counselor.” As in…aging jewish-looking guy? He must be a lawyer. But ever since then, I’ve been more casual. My probation officer doesn’t really give a crap what I wear. Just so I’m there when I’m supposed to be and pass my pee test we’re good. (Actually, I like my probation officer as it turns out.)
Now you’d think that security guards seeing a casually-dressed guy with no credentials to avoid getting scanned would lead them to believe that I’m a defendant and therefore not somebody to socialize with. But you’d be wrong. Especially last Wednesday.
I walked in and virtually began disrobing before I’d even reached the boys. Backpack coming off…belt unbuckled…change coming out of my pockets etc. You get the idea. I knew the drill. So everything runs through the scanner successfully but the guard asks “What’s that long skinny tube in your pack?”
To which I answer “Bicycle pump, homey. I ride over the bridge. It goes with me everywhere.” “Let me see it,” he requests respectfully. So I remove the fail-safe and hand it over. And he takes a look and says “Ya know what I thought this was?” He then puts the handle near his mouth and turns the other end with the nipple up. And suddenly the fucking thing looks like a long hash pipe. “I’m a child of the ’60’s,” he quips.
Moving down the line, I put my crap back in my pockets and hitch up my belt to ask the next guy who’s responsible for checking in your phone, “So what happens when a drug dealer takes off his belt. Do his pants fall to the ground?” This observation brings hearty laughter from both men. Apparently, I’ve tapped into something unique about their mundane job.
Well anyway, I check in my phone (usually, I don’t even bring one but I forgot on Wednesday) and head up the stairs to hang with Amanda and whatever guy is responsible for conducting the drug test on a defendant who’s never had a drug problem and is not guilty of a drug offense (sorry couldn’t resist). And I wonder how much some lab charges the gov each and every time I’m subjected to the test and they determine that I’m not on drugs. I’d say “Who cares? It’s not my money.” But $4.4 million later, maybe it is!
Ok! Enough of me being a rebel without a cause. Back to the guard stuff. It’s a quick visit. Amanda is moving out to the Islip office. This is our last meeting – and her last day. She simply comes out and has me sign a paper with almost no chatting (which we normally do). Downstairs I bound, this time (I’ve forgotten before) making sure to retrieve my phone before pedaling off.
I hand over the little numbered block of wood the guards give everybody who deposits their phone and say “That really new and expensive iPhone right there? That’s mine!” The guard comes back with my old school flip phone and begins snapping on me for my threadbare device. And I have a response.
“It’s like this. I’ve been staked out. Followed. Had my phones tapped. And my email account hacked. I figure using an old school phone will make it more difficult for me to be tracked. Call me paranoid if you want. I use this yesteryear technology.”
And what does he come back with? “You’re right. They know your every move. I had a friend who was going through a divorce. He deposited his money in tiny little outer boro banks so his wife wouldn’t know where he held his stash. I told him he was kidding himself if he thought that would work. And he answered ‘Well, at least I’m making it harder for them to find.'”
It occurred to me at that point that maybe I should get the fuck out of there. I mean…what good was gonna come from me hanging with the guards at a federal facility? So I took my leave graciously to ride back home. But I’ll tell ya what. That guard looked like he’d have been happy to chew the fat with yours truly till the end of his shift.
But really, none of this should come as a shock. While I’m not Brad Pitt handsome…nor Mandingo hung, I’m actually a fun guy to hang out with. That’s how I made all that fucking money.
Ask yourself this: Who do you want running your ads? A repulsive no-personality asshole who wants to turn all the employees into human bowling balls (the dreaded “trident”) or a guy who gives good advice…and makes you laugh? No need to answer. That was a rhetorical question.