Tuesday, 6 June 2017

People are on edge

This morning while returning home from the dermatologist's I was eating a cheeky beef kebab in the food court under Myer on Pitt Street when I saw a member of Westfield staff acting oddly. He was pointing down while standing with his back partly bent. He was facing away from me but I followed his arm and saw a black backpack sitting on the floor underneath a lunch counter. He was standing almost immobile, bent over in this strange position and his left hand was situated on the walkie-talkie strapped to the back of his belt. I realised he must be talking to someone.

Another member of staff arrived - this one wearing a suit - and the first staffer stood up to face him. I saw he had a mouthpiece attached to a headset that he had been talking into. By this time he had brought the black backpack out from under the counter onto a chair and the two men spoke briefly while I sat there watching them. Then the first guy left and the second guy soon after walked away carrying the backpack.

It reminded me of something I had seen less than a week earlier, this time in Darling Harbour. I was walking south from the Pyrmont Bridge toward Chinatown and I saw a team of about five or six police walking slowly toward me. Another policeman was on the wooden wharf just to my left. As I got closer to him I could see that he held a long apparatus with a mirror attached to the end. In his other hand he carried a grey, plastic case like a camera case. He was clearly looking for explosive devices under the wharf.

These two events make me realise how on-edge authorities are. Security guards in shopping centres have an unenviable job, especially when people carelessly leave their rucksacks behind in food courts. The authorities may have left the terror alert level unchanged for the time being but I sense a growing feeling of unease among people who are employed to keep us safe.

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