My wife and I had to run to downtown Fort Wayne this morning for one of those incredibly inconvenient and irritating little hoops the government makes you jump through, for no reason other than they can. We go to Fort Wayne a lot, it isn’t that far away and I used to work in town, but normally just on the outskirts of town which is mostly very vanilla, middle-class suburbia. Downtown is different. Granted Fort Wayne is a smaller city and I have spent enough time in actual big cities from L.A. to Chicago to Boston to know the difference but still it is always a bit jarring.
We live out in the country where the biggest traffic barrier is a horse-and-buggy or someone with a farm implement taking up the whole road. But in town there are the endless one-way streets and entire streets closed down for “repairs”. There isn’t a large population of indigent people in Fort Wayne thanks to the crappy weather but there were a noticeable number of various street people, homeless people, vagrants and miscellaneous weirdos. The police presence is very prominent as well. It is rare to see a cop anywhere near our house unless someone hits a deer. Where I live, breaking into a house is a recipe for getting shot by the homeowner and our neighborhood demographics lend themselves to being a high trust area so it is incredibly low crime and therefore there isn’t much of a police presence. When my neighbors are shooting, which is very common, the sound of gunfire causes me to look around casually to see where it is coming from out of curiosity rather than a reason to dive for cover.
Where we had to go, after showing up at the wrong building and getting directions from a nice sheriff’s deputy, was kind of a mishmash of stuff. The section we went to was on one side of the basement and the other side was where sex offenders had to register. Since I was looking a little scroungy myself, I was quick to head to the right office lest someone assume I was in need of being registered. The section we went to only has one very narrow and specific purpose as far as I can tell and only one person actually performing the job but it was a large room with desks spread out and four women “working”. The lady that took care of us was professional enough but the other three looked like fairly typical government workers with that permanent look of displeasure on their faces. We were not sure why they needed four probably full time employees in this center on a Thursday morning.
The building and the sidewalks were full of people who, like us, had business with the government but they were clearly not there for the same reason that we were there. Lots of women with babies, presumably headed in to see boyfriends/husbands/baby-daddies under arrest or incarcerated. Plenty of law offices and bail bondsmen in the area. They looked like people who had pretty frequent and highly unpleasant contact with the law. Cops everywhere, meter maids (actually a pretty big guy in this case), lawyers walking to and fro, lots of vibrant diversity. It might as well have been a different country.
It is jarring how different the worlds we live in really are and they are so different that it is really absurd that we pretend we have anything in common. Tens of millions of us have no contact with law enforcement other than the occasional speeding ticket or some minor incident once in a blue moon. For others contact with law enforcement is a regular and often ugly facet of life. I don’t think about the police other than making sure I come to a complete stop on a country road, just in case. My interactions with the government are pretty rare, property tax notices and that sort of thing. Others run into the government and law enforcement an almost daily occurrence.
It really is time to stop our little charade of being a “United States” and figure out how to peaceably separate ourselves before we get to the point of handing out blindfolds to people lined up in front of walls.