You ever watch people in a public place doing something fairly ordinary, but there’s something about it that makes it interesting, and you’d like to ask them what’s up, but the normal social threshold for doing so just isn’t quite there, and you’d sound sort of loony asking? You know, people you see and without being able to help yourself, starting making up a story about, for no particular reason?
It happens to me a lot. But I’m easily distracted.
One recent morning, I was coming down the steps in the city garage behind the Capitol Center (yep, I’d been to breakfast at Cap City), and as I passed one of those glassless windows in the concrete — between the 2nd and 1st floors, it was — I saw five guys standing lined up with their backs to me in the median of Assembly. They were in dress shirts and pants, but no coats yet. They were standing alongside two SUVs, standing so close to the tinted windows that their noses couldn’t be a foot away. All in the same attitude. It was like a drill team or something, and this was their routine. I half expected each of them to hold an arm out to the side to dress the line.
I kept descending the steps, and by the time I passed the next window, I realized they were putting on, or adjusting, ties. They were making quite a production of it. I was next put in mind of a group of commandos in an action thriller — you know, the guys who, after they’ve slipped in past security, reach into their duffels and, all together, in practiced motions, pull out black coveralls and automatic weapons. (Forgive me; I’ve recently watched the whole “Die Hard” series while working out at home. There’s a scene like that in every one of those. See the video below.)
By the time I’d reached the street, they were pulling on suit coats, very deliberately and seriously. In all this process, there had been nothing of preening; they were too sober about it. Deadly serious. They were girding themselves, preparing for… I don’t know what. Something they had trained for, seemingly. The two younger guys closest to me looked like athletes. And the older, beefier guys could have been ex-athletes. Or soldiers. Or cops. Putting on suits didn’t look like an everyday thing to them, although when they were done they were the essence of business propriety.
I didn’t notice any of them talking to each other as they started walking together along the median. They were just… moving out. Again, like they’d rehearsed this.
Sorry that I hadn’t taken a picture from the stairwell when I’d first noticed them lined up, looking at themselves in the SUV windows (if you’d seen that, you’d know why they seemed out of the ordinary), I shot a picture of them crossing Assembly after I stopped at the light there. I had to stop again at the light at Main and Gervais. By that time, they were crossing the street in front of me, headed for the State House.
Initially I had thought they were headed for some serious business meeting in the Capitol Center (the old AT&T building), maybe at the state Commerce Department, or one of the law firms in the building. “Business” in the sense that Beaver Cleaver used it: They were gonna give somebody “the business.” Lay down the law, as Dad did when Wally or the Beav got out of hand.
But when I saw them headed for the State House, I decided they were either representing a police association that was lobbying lawmakers about some kind of law enforcement legislation, or one or more of them (or maybe a fallen comrade) was about to be honored by a resolution of the General Assembly.
But really, I have no idea. I just knew there was some kind of Serious Guy Business going down. And these guys had dressed for the occasion, right there on the street, in unison.