The Man who Stopped
By Phillip Ghee (USA)
It all began very inconspicuously, an ordinary day, just like any other ordinary day. However, on this day; in the one of the world's most active cities, just before allowing himself to fully board the No.3 bus, at 8th.and Euclid, Günter Percival Sanz stopped.
"Com'on man." Screeched the Bus Driver. "I ain't got all day."
Günter, his rapid transit pass still dangling from a holder around his neck, said nothing, nor did he do anything. Nothing! He did not move, He simply carried on, at full stop.
He did not retract his extended arm as it stood grasping the passenger's boarding rail; nor, and more importantly, did he make any attempt at all, to raise the one foot still standing and resting firmly on Terra Firma.
"Now in this city, we got your crazies walking around… in Brooks Brothers Suits." Mocked the Bus Driver to his full enacted, passengers. This was a shallow attempt to either shame, or in the least embarrass, the man into some sort of action. But Günter Percival Sanz's reaction was much in the manner, as was his speech, as was his ambulation. It was absent.
The Bus Driver considered employing some physical action however, taking into account the man's well attended to appearance; he suspected some type of sham might be here at play. Maybe this was a guy who just wanted a quick and easy payday; touch him, even ever so slightly and a lawsuit would assuredly follow, "Heck, dressed like that, the guy himself, might himself be a lawyer." The Bus Driver reasoned.
"I apologize to all you good folks, sorry for the delay but
I am going to have to call this in".
The driver expected, and even secretly wished, that a river of rage would burst forth from the anger of delayed passengers. He just knew that for some a 'one more time late and you're fired' had already been threatened, to some if not many of his passengers. Undoubtedly these metro commuters would rush to the front of the bus, take matters into their own hands. He would turn a blind eye towards such welcomed intervention.
Surprisingly, the majority of the passengers either sat or stood apathetically by, while some even offered up murmurs of support for the man had arrested his own. From somewhere deep inside and towards the rear of the crowded bus came one of the louder retorts.
"Hey can't yous see the guy is sick, Maybe he's had sum type of
stroke or sumptin .Why don't you guys call an ambulance instead of
transit cops, ev'ry time?"
This last challenge to the Bus Driver had come angrily and was also supported by a thin wisp of echoes first here, then there. Nevertheless the unsolicited request came too late. The emergency beacon had already been activated by the driver, who incidentally, had decided to just ignore this stupid, illogical and unexpected rebellion brewing amongst his passengers.
Sergeant Reid of the Metropolitan Transit Police Department was an exemplary officer and one of the department's best negotiators. He thought he had seen and done it all. During his tour of duty, he had had the opportunity to remove from various buses and trains, some of the cities' more pronounced and colorful characters. He had rectified the unwelcome gifts offered Metro riders from a pant-less Santa. He settled a dispute between, as well as, arraigned a treaty between The Lords of Dog town and the10th.St. Warriors, both of whom turf the No.42 Greenway Express Bus serviced. On his watch he had, in many cases peacefully, led away so many Jesus', Napoleons' and ET's and the likes, that he was nicknamed the Pope of Ridgeway State Psychiatric Hospital. Still, he had never encountered anything like this.
By all account, Günter Percival Sanz appeared to be a man in motion, in sharp contrast to the fact that he wasn't. It would be negotiable if not slightly inaccurate to describe his current state as being completely immobile, or frozen in time, or in some state of suspended animation. Perhaps once could best describe him as a man on pause, if there had ever been an actual previous case of a man ever being on pause.
He was living and breathing just like the rest of us. Günter did not appear to be in any sort of distress. When greeted by the officer he even managed to maintain eye contact. He had rather unique bland look, as if he was not contemplating his next move. The curiosity of this look held Sergeant Reid at bay. Not only was the situation concerning the man troubling, there was also a certain resistance by many of the bus patrons to exit the bus, when advised to do so by the Bus Driver as he dutifully opened up the rear door of the vehicle. He rightfully had deemed it best that all passengers exit from the bus while the matter was being resolved. And although a fair amount or riders did so, many more stayed on, in a sense of, yet undefined, solidarity.
The Sergeant, a professional and not one given to rash decisions, weighed the situation. The man, obviously well dressed and coherent, at least in regards to standard profiling, did not appear to be your average 'nut case'. Perhaps this was truly a medical issue. However he reasoned, if this is a medical issue, than this man was in need of specialist, not your average city doctor, more like a Zurich specialist or something. He, none the less, phoned in a medical assistance request, just to be safe.
Terrorism crossed the transit cop's mind but, he quickly ruled that out, terrorist don't pause, terrorist do. The general sentiment making it way through the bus was that he was either a member of the once defunct yet endlessly trying to revive itself Occupy Movement. Other thought and prayed that he was a new type of engaged activist for Bus Riders Union. They themselves had become quite irritable with the abuses of the Transit System on its powerless constituency. Either way, his newly found compatriots maintained vigilance and held on their ground, or rather, their bus seat, now a full hour into the standoff.
Risking a violation of search and seizure, Sergeant Reid, meeting no resistance, cautiously reached into Günter's suit jacket and removed his wallet. The contents of his wallet revealed the reluctant commuter to be a commodities broker employed at one of the more prestigious firms on the upper Westside. This new found information did little to dispel the motley crew of supporters that had now formed outside, as well as inside, of the bus. They still held him up, although he was doing a good job of this all by himself, to be a man of the people and not of the Man.
The arriving paramedic agreed with the sergeant in regards to perhaps locating a specialist. All of Günter's vital signs were normal, at least the ones the EMT could ascertain, given that he was evaluating a man, still in the process of boarding a bus, as opposed to lying on a gurney or resigned and sitting in a chair.
The alert, albeit mute, Günter did not object when a passersby decided to use the opportunity to plank for a 'YouTube" video. A brief altercation occurred when the planker was rudely photo-bombed by a competing prankster. The Sergeant had to momentary turn his attention to the diversion until uniformed officers arrived. At such time Reid noticed that audience had almost tripled in the short time he had been engaged with the non-engaged man. This was growing far beyond the boundaries of the Sergeant's pay grade. Reluctantly, he requested back-up from the districts' police department.
The police barricades just barely contained the swelling crowds while overhead search lights from a ballet of helicopters gave center stage to the spectacle below as evening had begun to descend upon the city. The Mayor, alarmed the ever growing supportive crowd, had informed the Police Chief that any show of force might spark a riot or cast the city in a bad light. Such negative publicity would greatly affect everything from business development and tourism to police and community relations. He called for an emergency session of the city's commissioners and legislators. There they had to decide what law, if any, was broken, or what law needed to be amended or enacted to address the present as well as future 'copy cat' situations. The meeting was closed to the public even amid the outcry for transparency in government watchdog groups. Frustrated with this abuse of power the watchdog groups quickly took to social media and thus in minutes added their support and presence to the still swelling crowds.
The majority of component of the crowd were average lookie-loos, no dogs in the fight. Paper cups of gourmet coffee in hand, they merely took advantage of some real life entertainment before making their way to other buses and trains for the mundane trip back to the suburbs. The Occupiers did indeed show up, and in full regalia, banners and signs, hoola hoops and glow sticks. Some falsely claimed the man as their own while others, the more radical among them, sought to imitate the man's (non) actions on other arriving and departing buses. Their attempts were quickly interrupted or thwarted by the roving battalions of officer's s both, transit and district's, now with boots on the ground.
The Advocacy for Social Justice group, made sure the police allowed an, unimpeded pathway, to and from the bus, for the impromptu soup kitchen that had been set up to feed the remaining passengers inside of the bus who had heroically remained in vigil.
Those not steadfast in bodily functions were relieved to find that due to health code requirements that the city had been pressured into moving in place several port-a-johns. Worried over the possibility of some new virus befalling mankind, due to such a huge gathering of undisciplined elements of the society, the CDC dispatched a rapid response team. Although unable to legally quarantine the area, scientist and doctors, clothed in outfits befitting of beekeepers made the rounds. They took samples of everything from puddles of standing water, air samples in and around the bus and, a complete and warranted inspection of the operations of Giuseppe, the hot dog vendor who kept a stand nearby.
Carmen Sykes TNN's top, on the scene news reporter, had manage to get an exclusive report with Sergeant Reid whom midway through his rendering of events had been embarrassingly forced while on camera, to defer the issue to Homeland Security who had now arrived on the scene and was taking command of the situation. While showing a complete command crisis intervention protocol and just the right amount of thigh, she was singular invited into the Homeland Security staged camp, There she was keep abreast of each development and, to the delight of Homeland Security Top Brass, vice-versa.
R.D Cummingsworth, the president of Gunter's firm arrived and in hushed tones yet in a limo the length of a city block. He appealed to Günter to drop the shenanigans. He continued, in hush tones, directly into Günter ear, to lecture as to the effects of his actions on the firm, the stakeholders and the market in general. Detecting no compromise, as a last ditch effort, Cummingsworth, discretely and with much hesitancy slid into Günter's suit pocket an envelop containing a promissory note of a future hefty bonus. The last thing he whispered into Günter's ear was so stealthily delivered that even this omnipotent narrator was unable to decipher.
Günter neither accepted nor reject the proposal of marriage offered to him by one of the steadfast bus patrons. Onovio Godansk, a recent transplant from Croatia, so overwhelmed by the unwavering resolve of the man, could not hold back her passion and sudden love for Günter. "He we had more men like this the former Yugoslavia, there would have been a much different outcome." She bold praised.
From his rooftop post, Lieutenant Collins, a field decorated sniper from the battlefields of both Iraq and Afghanistan, now assigned to the SWAT special division unit waited instructions. He sincerely hoped that he would not get the command to "deactivate ". Nevertheless he remained poised, his eye glued to the scope, his finger gently resting on the trigger. He was however still a solider and soldiers do as they are commanded. He thought about that statement. Somewhere he had heard that before, he couldn't remember where yet he was sure it didn't have the same heroic and dutiful connotation.
Meanwhile back at base, Homeland Security had cleared Günter of any association with terrorist organizations aboard. Several of his old college classmates confirmed that Günter was as straight as an arrow and as grounded as tree. His landlady had been interviewed as to his comings and goings, to which he reported nothing unusual. His laptop had been confiscated and as of yet, nothing of note was found on the hard drive. They would however send it off to Langley, where they could even detect deleted activity. His parents believed him to be foolishly single, a tad bit liberal and underweight.
His ex girlfriend swore that Günter had never acted strange or inappropriately. She even referenced his reluctance to get freaky deaky with it; a point that Homeland Security's Top Brass seemed to needless extrapolate upon, in their exclusive interview privileges offered to the statuesque TNN reporter, Carmen Skyes.
"We're not sell outs, now get out!"
The authoritative and slightly angry voice echoed once again from somewhere amidst the bus. This time the rebuke was directed towards a group of executives from JAM TV. They were flashing plenty of the green stuff, attempting to recruit the bus patrons into signing release forms and enlisting them into their new form of guerilla reality TV.
"And take your bank roll and scripted responses with you." Amended a different purposeful voice...
Graffiti Artists had still manage to evade the heavy police presence and amazingly and in short time, a hip hop inspired, well executed, wall-type mural, depicting a funked- out caricature of Günter, now graced the starboard side of the bus.
From his rigged stage, emanating from the interior of a tricked-out, semi-trailer truck, a master yogi, from the Angel Life Esoteric Center, explained to the crowd that his pose, this new and divine yoga position, was an emulation in honor of Günter's stance of resistance. He elaborated that Günter's need for food and water and the material pleasures of man has been transcended. A troupe of wonderfully robed devotees demonstrated the Günter's stance as well as other basic yoga poses. Many in the crowd joined in the exercises. Donations were collected to ensure that the Stance of Resistance would now and forever more remain a staple of yoga discipline.
The driver of the bus had to be subdued and hauled away after a heated argument between him and his supervisors erupted over what and when specifically accounted for overtime pay. The Bus Drive felt that those passengers on board were still under his watch and according to his wristwatch he was still on the clock.
Not wanting Günter to deal with too many negotiators, Homeland Security kept Sgt. Reid on scene for future interventions. The wired him for sound and sent him back to his post. Carmen Skyes, TNN's, top on the scene reporter, and was eagerly fitted with a wire by a member of Homeland Security's Top Brass. They insisted she should have the real feel of things. And there was no doubt that she got just that.
For a small fee, paid to the SWAT special division unit, the Scientist, Doctors and assorted technicians of the CDC took control of the department's bomb disposal robot; which they later used to detonate Giuseppe's hotdog stand. Surprisingly none of the assembled groups came to his defense or to that of his property. Thus having claimed a victory for public health, the CDC rallied its forces, declared the mission a success and headed off for the Spring Break havens of Southern Florida to track STD transmissions.
The emergency session called by The Mayor fell apart after several hours of bickering over bus lanes vs. residential parking hours. Although not related to the event at hand, politicians are always most skillful at getting their issues brought to the table, when it suits their political longevity.
The Bus Driver having to stay, at least on-site, as material witness, claimed a temporary victory over the objection of his supervisor. He took full advantage of the break from the contours of the bus. He had himself a nice dinner at nearby restaurant. He really liked the suit that Günter was wearing and on the way back to the bus he stopped by an exclusive haberdashery and ordered up similar flair. With the all the overtime he would be getting surrounding this fiasco; not to mention certain requests for (paid) interviews by TMZ, Inside Edition and the likes; this was a sweet treat that would surely be paid for without missing a beat.
Sgt. Reid phoned his wife and told her not to wait up for him. Via E-Cellular Books, he read the kids a bedtime story from the phone and e-kissed them goodnight. He then somberly turned back to face, blank faced, Günter.
"You see that buddy, that's how it goes. Good night; the kids go to bed,
the parents go to bed, even the pigeons and the squirrels
go to bed. Then a few hours later we wake up, refreshed, go to work,
go to eat, do the office thing, do the sex thing, do the shop thing and
do the whole thing all over again. That's life, that's the way it works."
"Why?" He, yes Günter, finally spoke.
The Sergeant had not really expected a reply. He was spooked and even flinched a bit. Not a single peep had issued forth from the man's mouth since the beginning of the whole ordeal. The sergeant collected himself and with great relief he thought this to be a welcomed breakthrough. He was now certain this thing would soon be coming to an end. His response would be crucial. He evaluated as he thought it through. "OK Reid, be smart, be cleaver.
He smiled, confidently. "We are human and this is what makes us human and this is what we do as humans. This is the highest form of life on the planet.
"According to who?" Günter replied, without any much challenge.
"According to God, to the Universe, to Nature, Biology, the good and proven laws of the land, life: According to Garp; according to the accordion, to your momma and poppa, your baby momma, your same sex partner, if that applies whatever."
He spoke with authority yet genuineness. The sergeant, satisfied with his response, waited for the walls to come tumbling down. They didn't.
The Mayor, still unraveled due to the collapse of his emergency session, sought comfort in his attendance of a Catholic Mass. Here he was, trying sensibly to deal with a city crisis of major proportions and, he had to deal with that peanut gallery of fellow peers. He was ready to do unto others but, not in a biblical sense.
Archbishop O'Malley, unsure as to how the spectacle was affecting the spiritual soul of the city, had requested and was granted special permission from the Vatican to conduct a Midnight Mass.
Homeland Security concluded that the Sergeant had exhausted all options. Yet the fidgeting, slow and very tedious removal of the wire from Reporter Skyes torso took more time than usual. The Sergeant remained on scene for almost another, awkward, hour.
Having completely satisfied themselves with the removal of the wire from the well tended to reporter, Homeland Security's, Top Brass, returned their attention to the situation was at hand, the other hand. They ordered Sergeant Reid back to, make-shift, base
The Mayor, accompanied by a tall, almost royal, grey haired man, dressed in robes, a beanie and accessories befitting of the 15th. Century, approached the make-shift base. Unlike the easy access granted to the TNN reporter, after a thorough review of identification, they were waved through. However it could be said that they were fortunately enough not to receive, from the Top Brass, the intense pat-down given to Reporter Skyes, upon her entry and departure from the make-shift base.
The Mayor knew not to be foolish enough to assert rank and authority therefore he pleaded with Homeland Security to at least allow him and The Archbishop to meet with the distressed young man. Saving face is much overrated when it comes to saving revenue The Mayor reasoned. The Mayor along with The Archbishop was permitted access to the site in question.
Homeland Security had agreed but failed to inform The Mayor and Archbishop that Lieutenant Collins was placed on ready. They would not allow any harm to come to these two prominent men, under their watch.
The two men approached the stadium lit spectacle, arm and arm. Sanz had a look of disinterest as the two men approached. Being a man of the world he recognized both men in their approach b, was still not moved, to be moved. In the same fashion when initiating a civic meeting, in regards to The Mayor or any meeting in regards to The Archbishop; the men asked Sanz if he wouldn't mind if they offered a word a prayer before beginning dialogue. Sanz, ever so slightly, shrugged to note his indifference. The Archbishop asked of the Almighty the standard boiler plate prayer of understanding, peace, and unity, forgiveness, etc. He then summarized by rubberstamping the whole prayer, in Jesus' name. He noted an almost undetectable twitch in Sanz check as he concluded with the compulsory, Amen. That was a good sign. Instinct had almost compelled this man to join in on the chorus. This lost soul had once been on the one true path, O'Malley deduced. The Mayor, being a career politician knew when to speak and when not to, but rather to offer up a Cheshire smile/ grin instead. Not exercising the same amount of conscious forethought, The Mayor did offer the man a stylish, exquisitely crafted, gold lettered embossed, fountain pen. Sanz made no motion to accept but, neither did he offer any defense when The Mayor, gingerly placed it in his coat pocket and, sealed it deliverance with a light pat on the shoulder and wink of the eye.
The Archbishop, kindly, almost grandmotherly inquired about the source of the young man's current disposition. The smartly dressed Günter gave an equally smart reply
"I am going off-line to work".
"Now look young man!" The Mayor spoke up, no longer able to contain himself. "I know how you feel, on-line this, social media that, YouTube what! Or, Facebook the other. Sometimes you got to put it down son, turn the cell phone and computer off but, son, this is real life you're blocking here, this is not a video game".
"Are you sure?"
The Archbishop, a little unnerved by spontaneously, being sidelined, interjected.
"My Goodman, sure this life is hectic and at times, seemingly, out of reach, unobtainable, at other times it's just unbelievably harsh and pointless. I sense in you a good Christian upbringing. You know the perils placed upon us by Devil. That lying, provocateur, fallen angel, emissary of evil: out there all the time, filling our heads with doubt and grief; all the while chanting, as from the breeze, from every direction, that we should give up, we don't stand a chance, toss in the towel, say it's all done, it's all over, its finished…"
"Oh! You mean like, Our Lord Jesus said, Günter interrupted.
This threw The Archbishop off and his was taken aback while Günter was not taken either aback or a-forward. This was an interesting reconfiguration of the Archbishops' own words. The Mayor threw his hands up in disbelief appalled by The Archbishops hesitation and silence.
"Well we ain't Jesus".
Although playground-like, it was the only retort The Mayor could offer up on such short and sudden notice, in his attempt to re-establish authority of the situation... Unfortunately the suddenly and jerky raise of hands in the air was also reconfigured. In a knee jerk response, Lieutenant Collins had interpreted quite wrongly, the theatrical gesture.
Having established such a prominent connection to the activities of late, The Bus Driver wore a knock-off version of what was quickly becoming the most requested article from the city's more fashionable haberdasheries. He even volunteered to an active participant to the event.
Sergeant Reid had decided he too was going to go off-line. He however chose a more conventional way to do such. He had seen enough. He would cherish the history of victories but, he did care to make any more memories out of failures.
Homeland Security had declared Sanz a lone wolf and was awarded by the Senate a pocketful of billions, so that may study ways to profile and prevent such episodes. AM talk show radio and Fox News praised it as the most meaning contribution to the War on Terrorism since "Shock and Awe".
Years later several members of Homeland Security's Top Brass came under scrutiny and key members were forced to resigned after explicated emails were found in TNN's , top on the scene reporter, Carmen Skyes, inbox.
Lieutenant Collins was promoted to Captain. Strangely the, allegedly, found cache of 'Pentaerythritol tetranitrate(PENT) found in Mr.Sanz's socks, elevating Lieutenant Collins to the role of hero, did not prevent the Captain from seeking out and attending PTSD survivors' groups or, tending to cocktails of prescription drugs as well as cocktails of cocktails. Years later, at times, he is now found sleeping on the transit bus benches at 8th and Euclid, covered in the previous night's newspapers.
The Mayor went on to become Governor of State. He won by a landslide in much the same, landslide manner, of his indictment on ethics violations by the Grand Jury. It seems that while mayor, he had given substantial and lucrative contracts for municipal stationary and office equipment and supplies to the 'All Write Pen and Paper Company'. In return he had been rewarded quite handsomely by that same Company with housing, trips stock options and, late night visit from unusually provocatively dressed, so called business liaison affiliates.
At the eulogy, The Archbishop,, gave such a resounding intellectual and theological query into the nature of existence God an, the role of Man and Go, that he was summoned to Rome where he now sits as a permanent member of the a pontifical council of the Roman Curia, whose function it is, to advise the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith
Tee shirts and memorabilia surrounding the event, daily, still run off the assembly lines in numerous Chinese cities, bound for the shores of America. Although the event did generate a huge crowd, as the Bus Driver, along with his fellow pall bearers brought the casket from out of the cathedral into the roped-off pedestrian jammed, street; he could not help but wonder; how many more people would falsely claim that they were actually there, an actual participant. He surmised they would also write their own fictionalized versions of events, make grand and bold statement, pontificate and extrapolate, much like and in the same fashion as your current author.
"It is finished".