Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stopped by the Presidential Motorcade

When you’re in the business of broadcasting, as I was for over 30 years, time is everything. The six o’clock news happens at 06:00:00, not “around six”. Commercials, which pay the bills, are sold in precise increments of time. A one-minute commercial is sixty seconds. Broadcasters are keenly aware of time.

I wouldn’t wear a watch on vacation, because I didn’t WANT to know what time it is. At work, everything was time and timing. At one point a few years ago, I was doing morning drive newscasts for five radio stations, and I had to keep very precise timing constantly. So, when on vacation, I didn’t want to think about time.

Obviously I’ve gotten far from being a slave to time in the past year. Yesterday afternoon, as I left home to run a number of errands, I ran smack dab into a roadblock for the Presidential motorcade. Coming up Rimrock Road and headed for the Beltline Freeway, I saw the big black Yukon (maybe it was a Suburban) swing crosswise into the intersection, and I knew I was in for a wait.

Eastbounders could get on, but nobody was getting onto the overpass to go west.

I was about the fifth vehicle in the line. I realized immediately that my timing couldn’t have been worse. But, I run my own clock these days, so no big deal. It soon became apparent that several people in line had no clue why access to the Beltline was blocked.

The huge green military helicopter circling Wright School, just a mile or so away, might have been a clue. But clearly a few folks were agitated. They were out of their cars and looking around. It was 48 degrees, so I ran my window down. The guy who was two cars ahead of me had gotten out of his car and was talking to the guy in the car between us.

I overheard him saying he didn’t know why they had the road barricaded. I stuck my head out of the window and said “it’s for the Presidential motorcade”. The guy came over to my SUV and said “the President is here?”.

Even though I’ve been a news anchor most of my life, it still does not surprise me that no matter how big an event, there are always people who are clueless. I told the fellow that the President was making a speech about education at Wright School, and pointed to the huge military helicopter circling the school.

“So the President is here, huh? How about that. How long you think we’re gonna be here?” I said my guess was about 10 or 15 minutes at the most. He went up to tell his pal in the car ahead of us what was going on. I could hear just enough of the conversation to tell that his buddy didn’t believe him right away, and he pointed at me as he was explaining the situation.

Before long, we saw the State Patrol cruisers come whistling up the westbound Beltline, all lit up with the red and blue lights flashing. Behind them, a bunch of big, black cars and SUV’s…one of them, of course, with the President aboard, tailed by three more State Patrol cruisers, one in each lane, lights on, movin’ fast, bringing up the rear.

It was sort of cool. Well worth the brief delay.

On the way home from making my stops on the west side, I got off the Beltline at Verona Road and came home through Fitchburg. Fool me once….er, what was it the other President said about that?

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