Friday, January 04, 2013

During the General Assembly of the United Nations last fall, 42nd Street around my work was lousy with diplomats in tinted-window cars. Many stayed at the Helmsley Hotel next door. Often, as I walked out to lunch, I found motorcades double parked on the street, waiting to ferry their charges the two blocks to UN Plaza. One day there was a particularly large one, composed of black Mercedes and SUVs. Bodyguards and handlers lined the path between the hotel entrance and the open door of a car. They turned their heads toward the hotel, and I did too. The sliding glass doors opened. A man in a burgundy suit and tie, South Asian, heavyset, with straight, dark hair and gold-rimmed glasses, proceeded out at a funereal pace. He held his chin up a little and appeared not to fix his gaze on anything whatsoever, not the ground before him, not his destination. His bearing was impeccably formal but otherworldly, too, as though he were accustomed to never touching anything. Never addressing anyone. He looked like he’d been dressed and groomed by a machine. The secret service guys signaled us to stop and wait for him to cross. He continued at the same deliberate pace, not turning his head, not looking, not seeing, until finally his driver eased him into the back seat by the elbow.