IT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR THOSE OF US WHO DON'T WORK IN SIGNATURE, high-rise office buildings to fully comprehend the feelings of anxiety and vulnerability felt by tenants who do, or the hassles they endure on a daily basis. My job takes me to a low-rise, nondescript building in Atlanta, so nondescript in fact that one day a few years ago I wandered into a neighboring twin-like building after lunch, not immediately realizing I was in the wrong place. My building is convenient. I come and go at all hours of the day and night, never giving the issue of security much thought, even after 9-11.
But after attending a dinner on the 80th floor of the Aon building in downtown Chicago on a warm summer night in June, I now realize I'm living a sheltered existence. Because so many entrances to the building that towers high above Randolph Street were blocked off (I kept circling the building trying to find the right one), it took me 10 minutes just to find my way to the security check point. Next, security personnel inspected my briefcase and I was asked to present proper photo identification.
Following some additional sign-in procedures, I passed through security and rode the elevator up to the 43rd floor to meet Gayle Kantro of Jones Lang LaSalle prior to dinner at the swanky Mid-America Club. When I stepped off the elevator, she looked in disbelief that I had been allowed to get that far without being stopped. “What do you mean?” I asked, feeling rather perplexed. “They're supposed to call us to come down and greet you,” she said. “You're not supposed to be allowed up here on your own.” A look of slight concern crossed her face, although she was glad to see me. At that moment, I realized how different our worlds had become. Here I was thinking about what a hassle it had been to obtain access to the building, and she was concerned whether security had followed all the proper procedures.
Only a week before my trip to Chicago, I traveled to New York to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE). The theme of this year's conference was fittingly “New York Rising,” which will be the subject of our August cover story. Our field trip to “Ground Zero” was followed by a reception at the New York Stock Exchange, where airport-like security measures were in full force.
When you're unaccustomed to such a restriction of movement, the whole experience is surreal. Dozens of editors waited in line patiently to enter the Stock Exchange building, all the while chatting pleasantly as if they were waiting for the doors to open for the premier of a Broadway show. Meanwhile, inside the building each attendee's belongings were subject to the X-ray machine. Similarly, when I visited the folks at Insignia/ESG recently in New York at the MetLife Building, 200 Park Avenue, I experienced a 15-minute delay getting through security.
I completely understand all the reasons for the heightened state of alert, but I haven't grown used to the idea that such precautions are now just another day at the office.