10 Seconds ’till Chaos

On Tuesday I was in San Francisco for a meeting at One Market Plaza, followed by others in the area then back to One Market.

As I arrived the in city (lower case, always always lower case–only NYC should get the capitalization) the place was chaos. Pre San Francisco Giants parade prep and antics, I figured. So I parked, started walking to One Market Plaza, and saw that it had effectively been quarantined. There were police everywhere and the whole building evacuated and roped off.

Cops were turning everyone away saying it was a “private police matter” but I found an undercover (I think FBI) agent and we started chatting. After a while he told me it was a bomb scare, probably nothing and that I’d be able to get into the building within thirty minutes–in time for my meeting.

An hour later still no change. So I rebooked my meeting at Peet’s Coffee (best Vegan scones, but I’m off the carbs for now) in the Ferry building which is pretty close by. Another half hour later as I was walking to my meeting the perimeter expanded and I could tell the energy level had increased a bit. Suddenly, it felt like it was a much bigger deal going on.

As I was walking to Ferry something happened about ten feet away from me. A bunch of people were asleep and hanging out on the lawn (some homeless, some not). There were a dozen police around, and suddenly, one of the policemen started yelling at a guy to wake up as they were trying to clear the area since the quarantine perimeter expanded, as he got closer the sleeper his dog started barking at the policeman and lunged after him.

Within ten seconds, chaos erupted.

The policeman started yelling as he’s directly to my left and quickly unleashed his handgun pointed it at the dog. Then bystanders started screaming, the guy formerly-known-as-sleeping-beauty-who-probably-crapped-his-pants-as-he-awoke-t0-a-handgun-in-his-and-his-dogs-face is trying to restrain his dog, which starts looking rabid (the dog, not the guy), so instantaneously, a few more policemen pull guns out of their holsters and they’re alternating aim between the dog and the formerly-asleep-guy who is yelling whilst trying to contain and protect his dog. Bystanders are starting to freak (and yell at the police as well), guns are still pointed, screaming by all parties ensues, and the stuff is hitting the fan.

And as I’m standing there watching this, I’m amazed. Not at the chaos (that too). But at how quickly the chaos happened. Ten seconds. Literally, that’s all it took to go from controlled to uncontrolled. Clearly, there was a lot of stress to the situation and the point of this has nothing to do with how either the police or the civilians handled the situation. I don’t even have an opinion even though I watched it unfold, who knows all the dynamics that were really going on and ultimately I’m sure the bomb scare made the situation all the more acute.

What dawned on me is how many times that’s happened in other areas of life (and not nearly as stressful as this was an extreme situation, which eventually became controlled).

Think about it. How many times in our life have things escalated to chaos within ten seconds? Probably too many. And, unfortunately, ten seconds is sometimes all it takes.


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