Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Day in the Life (if you can call this living...)

By year's end, I will have lived and worked in the Nation's capital for twenty-nine years. The first twenty were the hardest. I've learned to like it here, but every now and then, I'm reminded of what I could live without.

The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens.

Then, and only then, could Obama purchase her leafy greens. "Now it's time to buy some food," she told several hundred people who came to watch. "Let's shop!"

Oh, please don't tell me she's that dense.

There's nothing like the simple pleasures of a farm stand to return us to our agrarian roots.

Now I know these Secret Service guys have a tough job, and I know that statutory law, and not the whim of a particular office-holder, dictates the measures they take. But I've been around these guys when they're in Hot And Bothered Mode. I refuse to be in a building, or at an event, where the President or Vice President or one of their wives is speaking, if I can help it. (The exception is the White House South Lawn. They're too far away to bother you.) If you want to be made to feel like the lowly peasant you are, let these gorillas shove you around one way or the other, or bar you from leaving an auditorium to use the bathroom, all in the name of keeping the world safe from for democracy.

Oh, and then there was the time a few years ago, when I was walking south on 17th Street, heading back to the office, minding my own damn business, and a White House policeman started barking at me like a damn drill sergeant to walk the other way with everyone else, and only then did I notice that they were all going north. I accessed a news report on my cell phone. Seems there was a bomb scare, or a crank phone call, or something.

The President was out of town.

In a recent discussion with schoolchildren in Arlington that got a share of attention, the President lamented not being able to go wherever he wanted without all this entourage. I'd feel sorry for such a guy, were it not for the fact that 1) he knew the job was like this when he ran for it, and 2) it's worse for the rest of us.


Dean Whinery said...

Yep, they can be kinda pushy.
I was sent to the airport as a news photographer to cover the arrival of a President who needed all the good press he could get. We were put in a little corral against a chain-link fence.
After a typical flawless landing of AF-One, the President walked down the line greeting the hometown crowd, shaking hands over the six-foot fence. As he leaned over the squad of photogs, his nose narrowly missing my lens, a Secret Service man put his arm across my chest and said, "Move back," as he pressed me against the fence.
A few years later, most of the press was not allowed to photograph Nixon on his unscheduled arrival back in Orange County, Calif.

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