Sunday, March 20, 2016

Guardians Of Darkness

The guys hanging out inside the planetarium. Them. They're guards.

I haven't been to the planetarium in Cuenca, but I'm familiar with the idea. Planetariums are dark inside. That's the point, confirmed by my one sighting, in Moorhead, Minnesota around 1971, when I took a sort of astronomy for noodle-heads class.

Planetariums are dark so you can see better. Which I don't have to explain because even if you think about it and come to the rational, reasonable, sensible conclusion, you know better. You know that inside a planetarium you don't want to see everything. In fact, you don't want to see much — just a few tiny points of light.

Which means that the darkness helps you to see better.

Another characteristic of planetariums is that they're empty. They have seats below and a dome above. And air. Most of the place is air. That's about it — like a movie theater. The place is about ideas and not things, and is full of dark air.

So it's funny (to me, still) to walk past the Cuenca planetarium and see one or two or three guards just outside it, or just inside it — What?. I should know by now. Guards. They're everywhere.

I did, during a previous incarnation here (at least a couple of years ago now), finally realize that guards, even armed guards, who are everywhere here, aren't so much armed guards. They are receptionists. And as with receptionists everywhere, their primary role is to maintain order. Their secondary role is to provide information. Their tertiary role is to control access to whatever inner sanctum that particular place has. And in Cuenca, a receptionist's ultimate role, the one of last resort, is to shoot you if you misbehave.

But only if you're exceptionally naughty, you see. Not usually.

Usually you see guards standing around hour after hour, five or six days a week depending on the hours of the business, or seven days a week even if the place is closed but important, like Banco del Ecuador down the street. You don't want anyone kicking their way inside that place and making a mess, so you leave at least one guard in place after the lights go off and the doors go into lockdown.

Which still, despite my getting used to a lot of things, or at least at least my witnessing of a lot of things, many of which I remain completely and eternally clueless about, leaves some room for wonder about the guards at the planetarium, because For why?.

I don't know why.

If I wasn't functionally deaf (meaning that I can hear but not too good no more) and thereby incapable of becoming functional in Spanish, I could ask. Most receptionist/guards seem happy to talk and why wouldn't they? They got nothing else to do all day, but I can't ask, you see, so I'm going to guess.

My guess is that to get into the planetarium (legally) one has to buy a ticket, pay a fee, pony up some coin, so. So this means that somewhere in there they have a box full of money. A box with a bunch of money in it. Some cash. At least a little. Possibly. Though who can say for sure? It's a guess.

Therefore the guards. In case someone might think that there is enough money in there to make robbery seem like a reasonable thing, even if there might be only $25 in quarters and dimes in there. This isn't a rich place, and people don't walk around throwing $50 bills in every possible direction — it's more like a dollar coin, a quarter or two, and a handful of pennies. If you can find pennies, but then again, if you do manage to find pennies you get really cautious about spending them, so maybe not. But maybe.

Again, I'm guessing. It's called for in this situation, so let's keep running with it and see what happens next.

So in essence, the guards at the planetarium are there protecting an idea. A potential. Putting up a barrier for anyone who gets his own and opposing idea. It's an intellectual standoff, a practical application of performance art: We are here with guns and clubs and uniforms and a big room full of darkness and you are out there, misguided, misinformed, with no income but not lacking in ambition and an urge to try something desperate on spec. And we say No — probably not a good idea there — don't try that, OK? Please? Just keep moving, go somewhere else if you would.

Maybe that's it. My best guess for now. Go figure.

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