Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I scream, you scream, we all scream for cleverly diguised terrorism

"Honey, what the fuck is this?"

I was digging through my boyfriend's closet trying to find things to throw away. We were moving in together and I thought it was important to get rid of as much of his crap as possible so I can keep as much of my crap as possible.

"It's a bug-out bag."

"A What? Nevermind. I don't want to know."

Of course, he wouldn't be him if he didn't explain to me that the black backpack I was holding that contained an old leather jacket, a new pair of Payless sneakers, a bag of rice, some tea bags and a few glowsticks was on hand in case the shit went down and he had to get the hell out of dodge. In his heart, he's kind of a survivalist, and on his surface, he's completely paranoid. Since moving in together, we've had multiple conversations about weather and terrorism-related emergency plans. For him, a bomb in lower Manhattan or a class 5 hurricane are very real threats that need to be planned for accordingly.

To his credit, when we have these conversations, at some point he'll look at me sheepishly and ask, "do you think I'm crazy?" I always assure him that I don't and tell him that I'll go along with whatever plan he thinks is best. The way I see it, if he wants to buy a propane-powered generator, it's no skin off my teeth.

What I won't tell him, however, is how I may have stumbled onto the greatest, most insidious terrorism plot we've been faced with yet: ice cream.

My first job when I moved to the city two years ago put me in Times Square for about 8 hours a day, six days a week. While that may sound horrible (it was), there were a few perks, namely, free shit.

Whether it was a middle-aged dude with a rocket pack full of Starbucks coffee, a wannabe model with packs of gum or Scientologists with granola bars, Times Square is full of underemployed folks just itching to give you free samples of crap you don't want or need until it's free. To this day, I have a cupboard full of various Tetley teas because my roommate at the time shoved about a dozen canisters in his backpack and brought them home, never to be consumed.

The point is, nothing will get a power-walking New Yorker to stop dead in his tracks faster than free shit. It is our city's greatest weakness, and I fear, our future downfall.

Case in point: Yesterday, I'm walking around the financial district, kind of in search of lunch, but mostly killing time so I didn't have to be in the office. As I passed the dozens of striped umbrellas that housed the standard fare of hot dogs, pretzels, gyros and unidentified meat on a stick, I saw one that looked delightfully out of place. It was a bright orange umbrella--attached to an ice cream cooler. Even better, there didn't appear to be any money changing hands. Immediately, I lined up. Several middle-aged office workers followed my lead, a few of whom had no idea what the line was for, but figured it must be for something good.

As I was standing there, I was struck by the fact that neither the umbrella nor the comely young men scooping out the ice cream had any signage. In fact, there was no indication at all as to who these men were or why they were giving us ice cream. They were scooping it out and we were eating it. That's it. There were no Deal or No Deal-like models trying to get us to sign up for a credit card, open a checking account, or even visit a new ice cream store that was opening up. It was just two guys giving away free ice cream without explanation or expectation.

I started nervously looking around, suddenly overcome with the feeling that I was a cow in a chute going towards the slaughterhouse. Shit. Wasn't "don't take candy from strangers" one of the first rules you learned as a kid? Yet here I was, 26-years-old and standing in line to take a frozen treat from completely random men. Sure, it looks like harmless ice cream, but it could be laced with strychnine or a time-released drug that will turn me into a flesh-eater within 24-hours. As bad ass as that would be, it's not really the way I want to go out (at least not yet).

Then I started thinking, if I were a terrorist, this is exactly what I would do. I would set up posts all over the city and give away free food laced with something time-delayed, allowing me to kill or maim as many people as possible, while still giving me time to make a clean getaway. Airports and monuments have security, but no one's going to argue with a dude giving away free ice cream. It's just not done.

I started to get a little panicky. Is standing in this line going to make me a part of history? Like, the bad part? I see something, should I say something, like the subway ads tell me to? Should I raise the question to one of my line compatriots? Should I just run? Should I take a picture so I can give it to Good Morning America and cry with Diane after all of these people become cannibals?

"Who wants a chocolate cone?"

"I do."

Let me tell you, it was good. Although, not as good as the orange sorbet I went back for today.

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