Friday, July 20, 2012

Code Pink

This morning in the Mission breezeway breakfast line, Colin, the resident hale-and-hearty-blowhardy  Scottish/Irish/Apache/Australian pseudo-polymath, gave us the news.  I won't dwell on the uniquely American horror of the Batman atrocity or its ramifications, because Colin got right to the center of my thoughts and expressed them to the guests better--albeit campily--than I could or would dare:

"Brothers, I'm sure many of you have heard of the shooting in the screening in Colorado.  Many of you had been speaking of attending such a screening yourself, should the Good Lord have blessed you with the lucre to accomplish the task."

I'm not sure who was listening to him.  Most of the residents seemed mired in their usual  funk of dejection, hunger, and anger, heads sagging toward the floor.

"Of course we'll all pray for the victims.  Of course we'll count our blessings.   But, brothers, every wretched soul within reach of the electronic media will have to endure vacuous and malevolent drivel the likes of which the world has never heard or seen.  My many years in radio and print media taught me a thing or two.  We'll all have to weather the coming storm in the media sphere in our own way.   Steady on."

That was about it.  Then it was time to express dismay at the single rubbery fried egg, inedible waffles, and unforgivable absence of the pastry table. 

After breakfast I headed off to the Fresno Community Medical Center Ambulatory Care Pharmacy to get an early spot in line for some prescriptions I'd been lax in filling.  A visit to the (more or less) free clinic and pharmacy is always a bit of a heart-thumper.  Plenty of altercations with the staff behind bullet-proof glass, security and police calls, screeching and genuinely woeful tales of insulin denial because of lapsed insurance.  "Go the ER if you feel you're going to go into shock.  Next in line!"

Still, I was surprised at the stepped-up security.  I always pass through the main hospital before hiking out the isolated clinic.  The instant the sliding glass doors admitted me, an armed guard was in my face, demanding to know my business.  "On my way through to the pharmacy," I said.

He checked his watch, stared at it for a long time, then looked carefully into my eyes.  "Right, pharmacy opens at 8, that's 10 minutes from now.  Go on through, sir.  Have a good day."

To understand what happened next, you need a bit of expository filler.  I'll try not to make it lumpy.  A few weeks ago I lost a backpack on a bus, and during a visit to my sister's, my lovely and brilliantly artistic niece took me thrift shopping for a new one.  After visiting several stores, the sturdiest yet cheapest one we found was a standard affair done in two-toned wilderness brown with some inexplicably pink fishnet pockets.

"This is the one," said my niece and shoved the bag at me.  My treat.  And don't worry about the pink parts.  I can paint that out for you easy and use some gray duct tape if I need to."

"What should I be worried about?"

"That pink could get you into trouble in some of the areas you pass through and with some of your buddies."


"You're a quick study, Uncle G."

Well, the duct tape didn't stick, as it often doesn't and lots of walking and sweaty abrasion summoned the pink as brightly as ever.  I barely thought about it, consoling myself with the thought of all the poor bastards I'd seen stuck with Care Bear and Strawberry Shortcake packs. 

Having passed the initial security check without so much as peep regarding my back pack, I wasn't prepared for the trio of security guards, two female and one male, who seemed to spring out from behind some decorative shrubbery near the rear doors. 

"Whoa!  Sir!  Sir!  Stop right there, sir!  Whoa!"

They surrounded me.  "Backpack check!" said one of the women.  I noted hands on bristling hip belts, thought about the blood pressure medication I should have filled. 

"Destination, sir?" asked the big male guard, who reminded me somehow of a  toothy, smiley hamster, in spite of his baldness.

Under the spell of uniformed authority, I found myself bending over and unzipping the pack without recalling the start of the action.  "Pharmacy," I muttered, "I guess I should have known, with the thing and all."

"We've got a Code Pink in the hospital, sir," said the rather friendly Asian woman, who seemed to be amused as I fumbled with my books, water bottle, lunch, bag of dirty whites.  "Got any babies in there?"  All three laughed.

I still didn't get it; Mission-dopey and sugar-fried, I still thought they wanted guns or explosives.  The second woman, sort of round, muscular and surely competent with various body-holds and throws, began helping me poke through the bag.  She touched my Kindle Fire.

"Kind of funny about the pink on your bag," said the male guard.  "Hey, is that a Kindle!  I wish I could afford one of those!  Where'd you get it?"

"The pink?" I asked.  "Oh, a Code Pink!  Someone took a baby from the nursery!  I thought you guys . . ."

"We can't tell you what's happening, sir," said the tough female guard who had my Kindle.   "It wasn't the pink on your bag.  But Buddy noticed it and it kind of surprised us."

"Kinda funny when you think about it," said Buddy.

"Pretty funny,"  "Oh . . .yeah!" "Gee!"  "Ha! Ha!"  Lots of eye rolling and silly glances at each other.

"Is the nursery pink?" I asked.  "That's why it's a Code Pink, right?  But it could be Baby Blue, too." [Like my blog]

"We can't discuss anything.  Don't worry, sir," said the Asian woman.  "It's just routine."

My eyes were starting to come into focus.  The woman who had my Kindle Fire was Officer Gomez. "Long line in the pharmacy, I bet," she said.  "You'll be glad you have this."

I wanted to ask for it back.  We stood wobbling there like old friends stunned to see each other by chance after many years.  Finally, I reached out and took the Kindle from Officer Gomez, who gave it up with a grin.

"What are you reading?" asked Buddy.

"Lots of different stuff.  I jump around a bunch because it's hard to stay focused."

"Wish I had one."

When I got done with the pharmacy and returned through the cool of the main building, planning to stop in the cafeteria for an orange, no trace of the Code Pink remained.  My new friends were gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment