in plain sight

14 Jun

There’s a place down the street from me that I’ve always wondered about. In the almost five years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen anyone going in or out of the giant monstrosity of a building they call Intelsat.

(I don’t know who the They are. That’s just what the sign says outside the building.)

We were walking to the zoo the other day, and ended up detouring around the facility, first walking up to the front door to peer inside. The lobby was empty, save for a red British-style telephone booth and what looked like pictures of those space-eggy chairs on the walls. We shrugged our shoulders and continued around the side of the property, cutting through the mini-park that sits just to the side and in front of the hulking gray and glass building, discussing all the while what was really underneath that park, and what really went on in Intelsat? Why isn’t there anyone here? What’s the deal?

Because sometimes our inner conspiracy theorists get the better of us (me). This is DC, after all. Is the mecca of conspiracy theories, theorists, and all that goes along with it.

We happened upon a set of stone stairs bordered by luscious, vibrant flowers. We wondered if we should maybe not go up the stairs? Maybe someone would try and stop us? But there weren’t any signs denying us entrance, so we started up.

“If someone starts shooting at us, you run as fast as you can,” said The Swede.


“I still have this bum ankle, it slows me down, so they’ll get me anyway,” he continued. “You run as fast as you can, I’ll cover you.”

“Oh, thanks, Swede. That’s very sweet,” I said. We had reached the top of the stairs, starting onto a path that was bordered with small shrubs and trees, loosely clustered enough to see the back of Intelsat beyond them. I eyed suspiciously the plaques stuck into the flower beds, stating the name of the flower and a brief one line of information, wondering if they were really just decoys. Maybe they were strategically placed so those involved in what couldn’t not be nefarious deeds going on at Intelsat knew where the levers were to the underground….nefarious…deedlings.

Or something.

And then we rounded a corner and found ourselves face-to-face with the Embassy of Kuwait.

As you do.

Raise your hand if you had no idea that the Kuwaiti embassy was five blocks from your house!

<raises hand, waves frantically>

And raise your hand if you had no fucking idea that it’s on the same block as a host of other embassies, including, but not limited to, Bahrain, Israel, Guyana, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Republic of China, and Austria.

<raises hand, waves frantically, falls out of pants, hits head on floor, wakes up wondering how she didn’t know any of this, asking herself what else she’s been clueless about/is hidden in plain sight around this damn town, and who the fuck took her pants>

It was a ghost town around those embassies that day. Probably because it was Memorial Day, and everything and its mother was shut down. We could see a few people meandering about behind the gates of the various embassies, but in general, we were free to wander up as far as the gates would let us (not far) and stare at the building beyond, or, in the case of the Republic of China Embassy’s front steps, stare up at the video camera pointed down at the patch in front of the door.

We shrugged at each other and wandered back, passing a building that belonged to the Department of State: The Chancery.

“Maybe it’s strategically positioned to keep an eye on these embassies,” I said, nodding wisely. Those Austrians. They’re a rowdy bunch.

We left the cul-de-sac of embassies and made our way back to the main street, passing a small guard house, complete with guard inside. I meandered up to his window.

“Excuse me sir,” I said politely. The guard stared back at me, and if I could read his thoughts, I’m pretty sure they would have been, “Maybe if I act like I can’t hear her she’ll go away.”

“Excuse me,” I said again. “What’s that building back there?” I pointed at the Chancery, directly behind him. He stared at me blankly.

“What building,” he said tonelessly.

I turned around to glance at The Swede, giving him a look like, “I’m not crazy, right? I mean, I know I usually am, but not this time, right? There is a building there? And it’s called The Chancery?” The Swede gave me a look back that said, “No, this time you are not crazy.”

I turned back to the guard. “That building? Over there?” I pointed again to the dung-colored building so large it would be clearly visible to all overhead passing aircraft. “You know…The Chancery? What goes on there?”

Suddenly the guard’s voice filled with animation, and if I’m not mistaken, his brow even furrowed slightly.

“I can’t tell you that!” he said indignantly, like who the shit was I to have the audacity to actually ask what went on at a Department of State run facility. Crazy bitch.

“Oh, okay!” I laughed nervously, wondering if the conversation was being taped. On the rest of the walk home I would warn The Swede that if men in black suits and big, black SUVs show up at my door THIS CONVERSATION NEVER HAPPENED. The Swede rightly pointed out that if men in black suits and big, black SUVs show up at my door that would be pretty spectacular considering I live in an apartment building and there would be big, black SUVs in my hallway, which is not all that wide.

“Okay!” I said again, with an obscene amount of fake enthusiasm, “just asking! I was just, you know! Wondering! Okay!” Because when I’m nervous that men in black suits are going to show up at my door and potentially take me away in their big, black, SUVs to a remote location with no windows and question me about why I was so curious about The Chancery, I tend to babble NO I DON’T OVERTHINK THINGS OR HAVE AN OVERACTIVE IMAGINATION WHAT GAVE YOU THAT IDEA?

We walked away, figuratively scratching our heads, our interest not a little piqued at for serious, what the hell happens at The Chancery?

Never did find out.

The men in suits also never showed up.


But the conspiracy theories of Intelsat being a blockade or some sort of front for the embassies behind it?

Running. Rampant.


3 Responses to “in plain sight”

  1. The Swede June 14, 2010 at 9:54 AM #

    Sadly, the written word cannot really illustrate tonal inflection.

    The cat was simply aghast that you could possibly conceive of asking him about the building whose garage he was manning. It was amusing.

  2. Annie June 14, 2010 at 10:20 AM #

    You probably WERE followed home by Men In Black, who made you look into one of those flashy-thingys and erased your memory. This has probably been happening for most of the 5 years you’ve lived in D.C.

    • mollystrz June 14, 2010 at 10:27 AM #

      What? Who are you? HOW DO YOU KNOW?

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