Friday, July 22, 2005

Hiding in Plain Sight

Donna had to get a 'stress test' as part of a routine physical exam. Her doctor gave her the address of a imaging center on Bloomfield Avenue in Glen Ridge. A couple of days before the appointment, we made a trial run to find this imaging center, but failed. We ran out of time, so we just had to do it 'cold' on the day of the appointment.

I should explain that you can drive through Glen Ridge while holding your breath. And you don't need to be an experienced pearl diver -- any amateur can do it, because the town is only 1/2 mile wide. And in case you live in some other other part of the country, like the Midwest, I should also explain that here in suburban New Jersey, towns are joined seamlessly together. Donna grew up in Nebraska, where there are miles of corn and wheat between towns, and you can spot the next town at a distance by the tall grain elevator. When she was first in this suburbia, she was puzzled, and asked me "how do you know when you are leaving one town and entering another?" I said "when you see the fire hydrants change color."

Well, just knowing that the imaging center is on Bloomfield Avenue in Glen Ridge limits the location to a half-mile stretch of road. We had a house number, but as is typical of business streets here, hardly anyone displays house numbers. On this half-mile stretch of road, we found only one house number, and it was displayed by two-foot high gilded numerals. I figured that the responsible businessman was flaunting his rebellion against the tradition of no house numbers. That told us which side of the street our destination was on, but not much more.

So what we needed was a sign saying "Imaging Center" or some such thing, but there was none. So we had to evaluate ALL the buildings on that side of the street to see what might plausibly house an imaging center. That narrowed it down to a building that looked like it could be a town hall, a church, a library, a museum... an imaging center? There was no sign viewable from the street, but it had a parking lot, so we turned in and parked. Donna said that her blood pressure was going up trying to find the imaging center -- would it skew the stress test?

As we approached the entrance, there still was no sign. There was no house number, no doorbell, even no mailbox. High above the door was a coat-of-arms, but without words. On the pavement in front of the door was a Latin inscription long enough to be some sort of motto. These only made the place more mysterious. Should we just walk in, uninvited? We had no choice. Only inside the inner door did we finally see signs indicating which floor to go to for the imaging center.

Hours later, when Donna was waiting for me to come and get her, she was busy answering people who showed up at the door, asking if this was the right place for the imaging center.

Most businesses cannot stay in business hiding in plain sight like this. But the imaging center gets their business from referrals from doctors, whose patients are forced to play hide-and-seek. But maybe it's really meant to be part of the stress test. In any case, she found that she doesn't have any blocked arteries.

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