It was a hot, sticky, orange, green, yellow day in the nation's capital, which would be a blue state, except that it's not a state.
Thanks to the latest from al-Qaeda, we were under Code Orange for terrorism yesterday, and if you're keeping score at home, you should know that the Air Quality Index was Code Green for good, and the ozone protection people put us at Code Yellow for moderate.
Emboldened by my morning color code checks, I slapped a Respiratory Protective Escape Device (a fold-up hood to protect against toxic gas) in my pocket and entered the Orange Zone.
It was busy for an August midday. Seventeen panel trucks passed by the World Bank in the 15 minutes when I was counting; police stopped one, a guy from Staples who showed his papers and opened the back, though no one entered the truck.
Two D.C. officers led their panting K-9 units on a sniffing tour of the little park across H Street NW from the Bank, and even the dogs seemed to want to have little to do with the seven shopping carts full of old newspapers, empty water bottles and filthy blankets that homeless folks have parked outside the symbol of world financial might.
I continued my tour of the terrorists' latest targets with a visit to the little museum in the International Monetary Fund building, where I learned, though I don't expect to retain, quite a bit about what happened to the world when the United States went off the gold standard in 1971. The guards were more interested in talking about how easy it is for a high school kid these days to, as one fellow said, "make himself a crude bomb -- everything he needs to know is on the Internet."
At the World Bank, workers spent their lunch hour gaping at the 11 TV trucks across the street and the 13 cameras set in a semi-circle around the entrance to the building.
"What are they waiting for?" asked a gent from India who, like most at these institutions, was full of opinions but reserved about sharing his name.
"They are here to record the moment when your place of employment becomes a smoldering pile of rubble and ash," I replied.
"Right," he said. "Well, back to work."
In the park, a nice lady who lives in Calvert County and commutes to the World Bank sat among the homeless, taking in the sun, eating her sandwich. She sees no cause to vary her daily routine. "I have to believe we're safer today than we were Friday," she said. "They're much less likely to attack us now that their plans are exposed."
Inside, everyone is talking about the threat, but the upshot is mainly shrugs and giggles, reflecting anxiety, resignation or both. "The main difference," the lady in the park said, "is our friends and family calling to ask if we should really go to work today."
She's here. They're all here. The TV people are here. The police are here (which raises the question of where they aren't, which could be your neighborhood and mine, but that's the nature of living here.) (Another special feature of city life: A policeman walked along with a stack of Emergency No Parking signs to tie onto parking meters. Each bore a handwritten note: "Til Further Notice." Real bottom line of an Orange Alert: less parking.)
I took my lunch half a block over, at the Bread Line, strategically situated smack between the White House and the World Bank. I could not find a seat on the outdoor patio, which owner Mark Furstenberg told me is the same situation diners face every day.
"We all know we're subject to crazy people -- especially since the sniper, we all know that," Furstenberg said. "What does one do? One lives."
The terror seems not to have made a dent in lunch business, nor in people's willingness to dine al fresco between two of the jihadists' prime targets.
Business is off a bit this summer, not because of terror, but because Furstenberg's air conditioning died a few weeks ago. Still, people come, 600 a day even in the stifling heat, because the bread is dandy; the sandwiches, robust. Life, believe it or not, is good.
"The air conditioning is a much bigger impediment than al-Qaeda," the owner says, and he speaks the truth.
There was one big change at the Bread Line yesterday. The building hired a security guard, but not a very imposing one. "You could knock her over with a napkin," Furstenberg said. So on this very hot day, he gave her a patio chair and the nice man from the parking garage let her sit in the shade on his ramp, where she spent the day protecting us from holy terror.