This is a very important election for New Yorkers. They will be deciding who will tie up their traffic for the next four years.
– Barack Obama
Recently during Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg respectfully requested that the President come nowhere near New York City. That’s because a presidential visit has an inordinate impact on the infrastructure and connectivity of the City on the best of days. During a storm, it would have been positively lethal. The mayor was 100% right.
As Mayor Bloomberg alluded, to live in New York is to curse the President. Especially when you’re in traffic. Even more especially when you’re watching the meter in your cab go past the $20 mark because a cop three blocks away has cordoned off your street in order for the president to get from one hotel to another. And you sit back and you think: Why are we doing this?
As written elsewhere in this blog, my first exposure to anything presidential was in 1968 when Lyndon Johnson flew over my head in the blue and white Air Force One 707 (Tail number 26000). Just seeing the plane created a sense of awe and wonderment, and since those early days I’ve been hooked by all things presidential.
That doesn’t stop me from thinking critically, though. Is this visit worth spending millions of dollars in security? Is it worth tying up all this traffic? Why put up with this terrible impact on the City of New York’s ability to generate wealth for an entire day? And why are streets blocked off for hours even after he’s passed? No one has ever explained that one to me.
And then I begin to wonder if he is even in that limo. Wouldn’t it make more sense to drive him into the City incognito, using a beat-up 1968 Datsun?
In Book Two, The Hammer of God, Chapter 28: I Love A Parade, Presidential Science Advisor Bill Hiccock and his wife are ushered into New York by a motorcade from LaGuardia airport to Manhattan when Bill asks himself that same question: The lights, the sirens, he wonders whether or not the commotion of the motorcade says, “Aim Here!” to a would-be assassin:
Turning to Janice, he suddenly realized that all the security made her feel safer and therefore the argument in his head stopped. He placed his hand on her protruding belly as she sat in the half-rotated crescent moon curve a pregnant woman assumes when they’re sitting.
When he thought about how the lights and agents also proclaimed – “Stay away from my wife and kid!” he took a deeper breath, relaxed a little and watched the skyline of New York loom larger as the convoy raced through the unusually light early morning traffic of the Grand Central Parkway.
Inevitably, every time I am stuck in a presidentially-challenged cab, my anger and frustration crescendos until, begrudgingly, I accept reality for what it is: He’s not just a single person. He represents all of us, and all of us, is worth tying up traffic for. All of us together, as represented by him, is what needs to be respected above all else.
All of us, as embodied in the Office of the President, is why I stare down the meter as it passes $25 and mumble, God Bless America.