‘See Something, Say Something’ and Its Absurd Reality
If you see something, don’t say a thing—you’ll become a suspect.
On October 5th, myself and an occasional Death and Taxes contributor headed to the Occupy Wall Street march and rally outside City Hall. We came equipped with a camera and filmed the events for the article “The 99%: Footage from the Occupy Wall Street Rally.”
We were there for several hours, walking throughout rally’s triangular boundaries. As the rally wound down, we awaited the arrival of our editor-in-chief. Around this time my friend noticed a red suitcase sitting near a group of newspaper kiosks. Behind the kiosks, at least five police officers were mingling.
I didn’t think much of the suitcase and was content that it was nothing out of the ordinary, but my friend walked over to the police and said, “Did you guys know about the suitcase right here?”
What happened next is one for the ages—we were admitted to the absurd, Monty Python-esque other world of the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.
A female officer turned to her companions and spoke briefly to them as we walked to a nearby bench sit. She then walked toward us and said, “Did you just put that there?”
“No, we just saw it sitting there and wanted to let you know,” replied my friend.
“You didn’t set it there?” she asked. “‘Cause it wasn’t there before.”
I started laughing and said, “No, we just walked up and saw it sitting there. You guys didn’t even notice it.”
“Really? You didn’t just put the suitcase there?” she asked in a harassing, sarcastic tone.
My friend said, “No, it was already there.”
She then proceeds to ask us what we were doing, to which we replied that we were journalists waiting for our editor.
“Who do you write for?” she asked.
We both replied, “Death and Taxes.”
“Death and Taxes?” she asked.
“Yeah, like nothing in life is certain but death and taxes,” said my friend.
“Oh,” she nodded. “What are you filming?”
“Were you filming us?” she asked.
“No, we were walking around, filming people.”
My friend replied, “For a short video for our website.”
“Oh,” she said.
She then wanted to see what we’d been filming, so my friend showed her.
The entire time we were being questioned, I noticed, none of the other police officers were dealing with the suitcase. They were, in fact, standing several feet away and talking without a care in the world.
This sarcastic, surreal reversal of “See Something, Say Something” continued for several more minutes until our editor-in-chief arrived and assured the officer that we were working for him. It was around this time that the officers found the true owner of the red suitcase—someone on a bench about twenty yards away.
When I told my friend I was thinking of writing something about our suitcase interrogation experience at the OWS rally—that it was darkly absurd in a very Pinter-esque way, he wrote back, “I think I was surprised about how they weren’t able to believe that they might not have been paying attention 100%. I think that insecurity was why they pounced on us.”
Although, I am forced to wonder if this is the topsy-turvy reality of actually saying something when you see something.
Lesson: If you see something and say something, be prepared—you’ll become a suspect.