WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT.
I was in Asheville over the weekend. So was Mr. Obama. Tried to hook up, but it didn’t work out. I did, however have an interesting encounter with the Secret Service. Pretty cool, actually. This was my second experience dealing with the protectors of the President of the United States.
A few years back, George W. Bush came to Greenville. In fact, he was there to give a speech at Wyche Pavilion, which was right behind our offices. So we got a front row seat.
The day before, some very official looking guys came into our offices, poked around, talked on some walkie-talkies, and then left. At the end of the day, we were told that four blocks of Main Street would be blocked off, and that only people who worked in those four blocks would be allowed into the area. We were also told that we would have to arrive on foot, and would be given access from the south end of the closed area.
I was escorted by a guy (I think he was a Marine), from the south checkpoint to our offices. We were given instructions that we were welcome to look out our windows at the President (thank you so much), but that there were snipers on the stage house of The Peace Center and on top of the Innovate building, and that if we opened a window, they couldn’t be responsible for what happened to us. So, you want a little fresh air…next thing you know you’re on the evening news.
Anyhow, it was completely different in Asheville. I was on my routine Saturday morning walk, around and through the Grove Park Inn. As I walked up the access road next to the club house, I was sort of surprised at how little Secret Service presence there was. I got to a certain point, and this very pleasant fellow, in an open-collar dress shirt, casual sport coat, and slacks approaches me.
“Good afternoon, sir. May I help you?”
“I’m just on my morning walk, which usually includes a stroll through the GPI lobby.”
“Oh, well this approach is closed today. I think you’ll have to use the main entrance. The best way to get there is up Grovewood, which is about a block that way.” And this heavily armed, high-tech, hand-picked guardian of the leader of the free world…I promise I am not making this up…did the Disney five-finger point in the direction of Grovewood Street.
“Thank you,” I said.
“My pleasure, sir. Have a nice day.”
So, the bottom line. When the Bush Secret Service were in town, it was like a military conquest. Lots of official looking tough guys. Sunglasses. Ear pieces. Threatening instructions. Barricades. The Obama Secret Service was more like…tour guides.
Now, I’m sure that in either case I would have been ill-treated had I given any sign that I had hostile intentions. The Obama guys probably had sharp shooters too. But I kinda liked that they didn’t see protecting the President as a reason not to be pleasant.
I guess I’ve been in the South too long.