the sound of crunching numbers

Downtown AtlantaI walked into the lobby of the large skyscraper. An enormous window towered several stories above of me. I had just come down the elevators from one of the largest advertising agencies in the country. Our executive producer had spoken with them the previous day and they had requested the reels of our directors, the delivery of which had become my responsibility. With no one to receive the package, I tucked the white envelope back into my messenger bag and avoided the stares of the Mexican workers who were painting all around me. I stepped into the elevator and my eyes rested unfocused on the LCD screen next to bank of round buttons. As the elevator dropped forty floors I noticed the name of the content provider of the LCD screen: The Captivate Network. The Captive Network. They weren’t even pretending anymore, were they?

Now, as a walked through the lobby and slipped on my iPod’s recognizable white earphones I surveyed the surprisingly stark room around me. A couple of men in suits glanced reflexively in my direction. I was wearing jeans, a baseball cap, and a t-shirt. I looked around and confirmed that I wasn’t quite the type that fit in at this building. It was true. The businessman’s tie likely cost more than my entire Target-purchased outfit. He also probably didn’t face the shock of going online the Saturday before and seeing that his checking account had 43 cents in it. (This, as it turns out had been a simple accounting error in which I transferred money out from the wrong account. Don’t worry, Mom. :-) )

I made it to the revolving doors and saw a doorman who was standing in the shadows nearby. I hadn’t even noticed him on my way in. As I walked through the door, I realized the reason for his presence. Just outside the doors, city employees were on strike. Several had large picket signs with a picture of a rat and someone’s name. The doorman was probably there to assure than none of the protesters spread into the massive lobby just steps away from the picket lines. I turned on the sidewalk and quickly assumed the expressionless no-eye-contact zombie stare that I had learned since living in Sao Paulo years ago. I picked up the pace. People were less likely to stop you if it looked like you were on a mission. That was the idea, anyway. The actuality is that the people who would actually do the stopping knew that this was just an empty con and that you really had all the time in the world. If anything your annoyance would probably end up being an interesting diversion from the, “sorry, man” comments. I knew this because when I was a missionary in Sao Paulo, I had been an annoyer. I had intentionally picked people out that had the “don’t talk to me because I had somewhere to be” look about them. They had proved to be an entertaining distraction. If you were in a good mood, you got a good chuckle afterwards about how people could be so ridiculous. If you were in a bad mood, these encounters further added proof to the theory that people did, in fact, suck.

The urban busy-pace did work sometimes, however. I zoomed passed a panhandler, my eyes fixed on the MARTA station ahead. He glanced at my stone face and decided I wasn’t worth it. Like the corporate bouncer in the skyscraper, my cold exterior had maintained the separation that crystallizes in modern city life: the “haves” from the “have-not’s” from the “have-nothing’s”.

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  1. Good story… Ryan did work on that building that’s in the picture. He was the one that told them where to put it. Cool eh?

    Posted August 27, 2007 at 10:00 am | Permalink