du·ress n. 1. Constraint by threat; coercion: confessed under duress. 2. Law. a. Coercion illegally applied. b. Forcible confinement.
The drive to work entails a long, winding road that leads to several staggered concrete barriers. If the right music is playing, the alternating curves can be almost entertaining. At the end of the curves is a checkpoint manned by armed military personnel. At the checkpoint I'm instructed to open my hood, trunk and glove compartment while the armed guards search my vehicle.
I expect this. I work for a company with a military contract. And I want them to search. I want them to look very closely at every car that enters the compound. I don't want them to overlook anything and I want them to find nothing. I want there to be nothing to find.
With the inspection completed, I restart the car and drive a few more feet to the lot. There are barely enough spaces since the closer half of the lot is closed by a row of yellow concrete barricades. I park and walk through the empty half of the parking lot and past the berm that protects the gate.
When I open the door, I immediately walk through a metal detector and place my bag on the desk beside me. An armed guard inspects my lunch and book bag while another checks my badge and ID from behind a thick glass window. Multiple forms of ID are compared and matched and validated with my appearance. I am found to be me.
"Do you know the duress words?"
"Yes. Do you just want to know or do you want me to recite them?"
"Recite them for me, please."
I lower my voice to confidential volume and demonstrate to the guard that I know the Primary, Secondary and Training duress words.
The guard nods and returns the ID cards through the thin slot as we exchange a polite "thank you." I don my badge and gather my belongings. The mechanism clicks and the Mancatcher Turnstile rotates one half turn and locks. A few more steps and I spin my way through a second Mancatcher. Only one more door and then I find myself beyond the Entry Control Point.
I feel like I am in the womb.
It's another 50 yards to the entrance of my building and I feel like I have entered another world. Yes, there are threats, but still, I feel safe. It's probably the safety of familiarity, but it's a cozy feeling nonetheless.
Most of the time I spend the entire day behind the gate. I take smoke breaks just outside the door and eat lunch at my desk. It's easier that way. And at the end of the day, the security ritual repeats in reverse.
On my way home, I hear another news article about the McDermott trial. McDermott killed several of his coworkers the day after Christmas a few years ago. Some say he "went postal," which is a reference to a prior rash of violence from disgruntled postal workers. Yes, the same postal workers who are now taking precautions to protect themselves from terrorist-wrought anthrax exposure.
And then I go to dinner with my cousin. She works in Human Resources. I find out her workplace has a code word too. The word is used to alert security and fellow coworkers that someone might "pull a McDermott."
How did we get to the point where simply going to work is a potential danger? And more importantly - how do we change that?
Posted by BlueWolf on May 15, 2002 11:38 PM