Wednesday, October 13, 2004

If you wanted proof positive that the President and Would-Be-President are important people, you should have been in Tempe this afternoon. Never before have I been so annoyed. And all of my predictions about the afternoon sucking..? Shockingly accurate. And of all the folks in my office to actually suffer through the worst of it? The League.

Dammit, Leaguers. The League has been personally inconvenienced once again.

I tried to get out of the office early, but after the meeting I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a lot of work to do, and I was also hangin' with Rahim. Hangin' with Rahim. I think I have a new sitcom on my hands.

Point being: I left dead last, and got to know the interior of my car intimately this afternoon.

Anyway, at 4:30 I kicked Rahim's butt out the door and headed AWAY. As I left the parking garage, some shirtless dude in an orange car was making the sign of the devil at me and honking his horn. I have no idea what that was about. Then I saw a riot crew of about a dozen, dressed in full gear and lazily walking the direction fo my car. I sped off.

At each corner were two more cops, (totalling about 8 per intersection) and the freaks were starting to make their appearances.

I KNEW the street running alongside campus was closed, and so I tried an end run around, popping out safely past campus in my pursuit of the 101. While crossing Mill, the street upon which the debates took place, I could not help but notice a crew of bicycle cops numbering about a dozen or more, pedaling furiously in unison, doing God knows what.

I reached my semi-planned escape route. However, University was closed about a block up. Some rent-a-cop security detail had closed down the street and was staring stupidly at the tremendous line of cars piling up. All traffic was stuck in a jam which literally could go nowhere but into a parking lot. Some of us were pulling a U-turn mid-road, and there was a motorcycle cop blaring lights, zipping up and down the road, not really doing much of anything. No idea what he was doing other than enjoying the shiny lights.

Undaunted, I tried my only other alternate road to reach the main freeway. This, too, was blocked. And turning around and going back the way from which I came meant turning back into the traffic jam built up for about a mile.

While Bush's team had checked out the Bank One Ball Park for their after-party, the Kerry folks had rented Tempe Beach along my second planned escape route. What I am saying, leaguers, is that all East/West traffic in Tempe was now impossible. Literally. And I couldn't go North because there's a man-made river (thus the beach), and my Southbound path was blocked by the auditorium holding the debate... so not really an option. And East/ West... closed off at Rural.

At this point, I kind of freaked out. But screaming at hippies only makes you feel okay for a short amount of time. Similarly, screaming at the Izod and Loafers crowd.

So, my only option... scratch that... the only option for everyone in TEMPE was to go WEST. The opposite direction from my house, I might add. North West.

My usual 45 minute drive took an hour and a half.

And I understand the need for security. I really do. But...

Can't they just hold these debates somewhere in the middle of the desert? Or on the moon? Or someplace where the mere presence of these two clods isn't going to turn the whole area into a police state?

I now wonder what Crawford, TX must be like whenever the President arrives. They must have a secret service detail for every citizen of the town.

Did I watch the debates? No. I think I've heard everything these guys are going to say. And, surely if asked why the need for all the crazy security, America would bristle and mock the questioner. But, no, seriously... what's up with all the security?

With terrorism being such a hot button issue, all this security doesn't make me feel more safe. The cops are there for riot control and to keep the anarchists from sneaking in behind the hippies and smashing up the Starbucks at 5th and Mill. But what, exactly, were the 8 cops stationed at Mill and 7th going to stop? Looting? A sudden invasion from foreign powers? What supercop maneuver are they going to pull if somebody DOES have a bomb or a car full of dynamite?

Its hard to describe, I guess. Lots and lots of cops, but they're being cops, and are looking for rowdy drunks and crackpots. The cops are not looking for somebody staying cool until they begin their wily scheme.

And then Kerry holds his after party in an open-air pavilion? Bush surrounds himself with 35,000 people he doesn't know at the BOB? But, for some reason we can't drive our cars East-West a mile from the auditorium?

I know, I know... its just one day, and you can't complain about this because its a necessary precaution. But this is how both of these guys are travelling across the country right now. This is what the experts feel is necessary in order for these guys to be protected. Or at least to feel protected.

That doesn't make me feel safer. Not by a long shot.

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