Looming in the distance, it wasn’t difficult to find- surrounded by a few cow pastures and plywood signs exclaiming “WILL BUILD TO SUIT!” the five-story building shot into the sky with all of the self-importance of a skyscraper despite its modest height.
The perfectly manicured streets and medians leading us to the building, after several four-way stops at empty intersections (if they could be called that) seemed eerie in their over-design, as if they were anticipating thousands of vehicles instead of just the one or two cars that used them as a turnaround point to get back on the highway. Perhaps if we prodded a few of the long horns from their lazy grazing we’d have an actual need for the bright pops of octagonal color ordering us to STOP. The signs seemed anxious to put themselves to work, so we obliged and came to full stops at each crossing- lest traffic suddenly appear and demand we share the roadway as each stop sign seeming to imply was imminent.
It felt like a soundstage for a film that came in so over-budget they had to shut it down before production was completed. All but one of the four buildings, their newness shining proudly in the afternoon sun, was incomplete, unsightly skeletal innards showing from at least one of their sides. We tried not to stare, as if embarrassed for them.
Climbing out of the car we shielded our eyes as we looked up at the beautiful building in front of us. Gleaming steel, blue-green glass gleamed prettily, a bow to the possibilities of modern architecture without appearing too ‘showy’. The landscaping was lovely as well, native plants and flowers complimenting perfectly both their natural surroundings and the building they were designed to soften as only nature can. As we walked around the building, in honest awe of its beauty and modern facilities, something seemed ‘off’… not right. It seemed two dimensional, almost like a plaster cast of what it should be. I think we both felt it, but neither of us knew how to vocalize the ‘wrongness’ so we didn’t speak of it.
But, there was a coldness, an austerity, of that there was no doubt. Even the temperature seemed to drop several noticeable degrees in the looming shadow of the building. There were no buzzing bees, no chirping birds or skittering lizards. There were no cracks in the sidewalk, no gum stuck to the pavement, no candy wrappers or promotional flyers littering the ground or plastered to the rim of the pristine waste disposal cans that peppered the walkway at perfectly designed intervals.
There were no people.
Rushing back to our vehicle with unspoken but understood haste, we both let out our breath in what sounded like a synchronized sigh. We had both been holding it while outside the building. We found our way to the highway, and I knew we would never go back.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Somehow, in our random errand-running afternoon, Andy and I found ourselves about 30 minutes south of Orlando at the new medical city in Lake Nona, FL. Deciding to check out what the place was all about, we drove towards the ‘city’ which was primarily composed of an almost-finished Nemours Children’s Hospital, a just-about-finished VA Hospital and the newly opened UCF College of Medicine. All of the buildings were stunning and very impressive, but the whole place had a weird vibe. Maybe because of the size of everything, and because it was a Saturday so no one was really around, but man, it was kinda like a modern-day ghost town. Like a bunch of wealthy fat-cats got together to build their own city and then before they could move anybody in, the world ends… or something dramatic like that. There were some awesome longhorns relaxing in a field between the College of Medicine and a research facility which I thought added a lot to the place… so I hope the cows get to stay.
Love & Squirrels.