Friday, May 20, 2011

Meeting the President

Thought for the day: Don't worry about the world coming to an end. It's already tomorrow in Australia.

I wonder how many people around the world believe that fellow who claims tomorrow is Judgement Day. One rather amusing side story to his prediction is that a bunch of atheists are allegedly making money hand over fist by selling post-rapture pet care services to people who believe they'll be heading for Heaven tomorrow and leaving poor little Fido behind. (What's the chance any of them will get a refund on Monday?)

A couple days ago, I told you that my unexpected detour into amateur radio led to a meeting with the President of the United States.

Here's the story:

Many hams worked to make it happen, but because I happened to be serving as Georgia Section Manager when everything finally fell into place, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director and I got together and signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding. Hams had a long history of working with GEMA and other state, federal, and local agencies during emergencies, but this was the first time we were afforded such a high level of respect, and the first time our role was acknowledged and delineated in writing. It was quite a Big Deal.

Wow, is that who I think it is down there?
Later, in June of 2004, when the G-8 summit came to South Georgia, the Director called on us to deliver. Again, quite a Big Deal.

During annual G-8 summits, the heads of state from Canada, Japan, England, Spain, Germany, France, Russia, and the U.S. get together, and in 2004, as if the big eight leaders weren't enough, other world leaders, particularly from the Arab countries, were also planning to attend. Ergo, there'd be a LOT of prime terrorist targets in one location at the same time. Of the likely terrorist targets named by intelligence agencies, this summit was near the top of the list. Intel was scary and tension was high.

The director requested various levels of support from the amateur radio community, including a four-person A-Team of operators to deploy to South Georgia to provide back-up communications in case the fit hit the shan. My husband and I were two of the four. A network of hams worked in a number of supportive roles, but we went to ground zero.

The Cloister, site of the G-8 summit

The bigwigs stayed on Sea Island, at a very exclusive resort called the Cloister. Very expensive, very opulent, and somewhat secluded. Ground zero was a hop, skip, and jump away, at McKinnon Airport on St. Simon's Island, at  the MACC, or Multi-Agency Command Center. We were there in support of GEMA, and our base of operations was their enormous mobile communications vehicle, but the entire compound was crawling with Secret Service, FBI, GBI, National Guard, NORCOM, GA State Patrol, and all kinds of military, law enforcement, hazmat, and SWAT teams. Guns everywhere. Even a battery of SAMs. (surface-to-air missiles)  Helicopters buzzing overhead, two of which were designated Air Force One. Amazing. And incredibly tense, especially for the first couple of days, when intel suggested the possibility of a dirty bomb or bio-attack.

But the food was awesome. I mean, the government spared no expense. Huge steaks. Biggest breakfasts you ever saw. Fresh seafood. Low country boil.

By the evening of the low country boil, tensions were ebbing, and everyone was in a festive mood. Our mission was coming to an end, and though we'd certainly experienced some interesting happenings, we hadn't experienced any attacks, and we were all still breathing. Or more like panting. (South Georgia in June is hot, hot, hot.)

First, the distinctive black Special Service Suburbans with the dark tinted windows drove up and down the runway, which wasn't especially new. Then a team of snipers climbed on top of the outhouses. Um, okay, that was a little new. Then two Air Force One helicopters buzzed overhead. Always interesting, but not new. Then one landed, and Condaleeza Rice, President Bush, and his Scottish terrier Barney got out!

First off, let me tell you that Condaleeza Rice is a teeny tiny woman with a great big smile. Up until that time, every picture I ever saw of her in the newspaper made her look like the world's biggest grouch, always with a frown or scowl on her face. Not so in person.

A little while later, my hubby and I were in the chow line, when a Secret Service man burst out the door and told everyone to freeze. (I mean, crap, we were just about to scoop the shrimp onto our plates, too!) Then, out came President Bush. WOW. On a funny aside, one of the orders everyone got before deploying was ... NO CAMERAS. You would not BELIEVE how many cameras appeared when the president and Ms. Rice arrived. (And yes, we got pics, too.)

So, bottom line, President Bush shook my hand. I thanked him for coming to visit us, and HE thanked ME for being there. I know. Awesome, right? No matter what your politics are, shaking the hand of any President of the United States makes for an experience never to be forgotten.

One last comment on the experience. In the midst of all the tension, the Georgia State Patrol had a vehicle that made us laugh out loud. It was a little armored vehicle with a battering ram on front. And on that battering ram, there was a bright yellow smiley face and the words, "Have a nice day." Actually, we had a bunch of 'em.

And here we go, it's time for the (ta DA!)


** In New Mexico, border agents made a bust that was full of bologna. Literally. They caught a man who was trying to smuggle 385 pounds of the contraband into the country. For the record, it was the largest bologna bust in the history of that crossing. Somehow, I doubt if that fact will prevent the other agents from giving the agent who caught it a major ration of ... what else? Bologna.

** In a society fraught with frivolous lawsuits, frequently based on injuries caused by, let's face it, a lack of good old-fashioned common sense, warning labels have become more and more ridiculous. (Like on a can of peanuts, the warning, "This product may contain nuts.") For the past fourteen years, a non-profit group based in Atlanta has been hosting a Wacky Warning Labels contest, and here are this year's five finalists:

  • On a ballpoint pen package: "Swallowing the pen cap may obstruct breathing."
  • On a dust mask: "Does not supply oxygen."
  • On a hot tub cover: "Avoid drowning. Remove safety cover from spa when in use."
  • In a bicycle brochure: "The action depicted in this brochure is potentially dangerous. The riders seen are experts or professionals." (They were also young children ... with training wheels.)
  • On a leather holster, designed to look like a PDA: "For gun only, not a functional day planner."
** In the Czech Republic, the Prague Zoo is dishing out something unusual in those ice cream containers. Dung. Elephant dung, to be precise. It's the latest fertilizer fad amongst Czech gardeners, and the program was the bright idea of zoo director Miroslav Bobek, whose surname, by the way, literally means "dung." (Poor guy. Think he was destined for this job, or what?) Ah well, at least this stinky souvenir, which sells for just under four dollars a carton, has substance, so it's a better buy than, say, canned cow farts.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. Hope you got some of those shrimps president is worth missing out on that!

  2. I've never met a president but once I saw pres Reagen from a distance.

  3. My mother met a couple of pres and the Pope (twice). She likes to laud it over me when appropriate.

    As for the elephant poop, I'd like to get my hands on some of that. It's supposed to be excellent fertilizer.

    Also, question -- You are the third person today who has referenced that the world is coming to an end -- tomorrow. What is up with that? I thought we werent's supposed to blow up until 12/21/12.

  4. Cool presidential meet-up!

    Also, I love the wacky warning on the bicycle brochure. They're all funny, but that one struck me as particularly hilarious.

  5. Awesome President story and you are exactly right - no matter the politics, it is so great to just get to meet the man. And you and hubs are awesome! Ham radio operators - that is so cool.

    You made me laugh with the "It's already tomorrow in Australia." No kidding, I keep teasing me Aussie friends that they have to email me by 6 am their time so I know we are safe. Wait - I haven't gotten an email. OH NOES!

    Enjoy your weekend.

  6. Hi, Karla. Oh yeah, we got our shrimp, although my hubby belly-ached a teeny bit about having to wait. (He was really HUNGRY!)

    Hi, Karen. Very cool on seeing Reagan. He was one of those bigger than life kind of men. LBJ came down the steps at the White House and waved at our group when I was there on a tour, and I was in D.C. for JFK's funeral. An incredible experience. So many people standing along the street, and the only sound you could hear was the clip-clop of the horses' hooves as they pulled the wagon with the casket in it down the street.

    Hi, Anne. Wow! Good for your mom. (Not so much for you, though, huh?) That's OK. You're gonna be a published author one day ... so put THAT in her pipe and smoke it! Since I'm sitting here typing, it doesn't look like the world came to an end. Either that, or the rapture happened when I was asleep, and I was (ahem) overlooked, shall we say. (No, no, no, NOT "left behind"!)Anyhow, this minister claimed that he'd "figured out the math", and has been preaching that today was gonna be the rapture. He put better than 100K into spreading the word, and there are even some billboards about it in the Atlanta area. He's gonna have some 'splaining to do in church tomorrow. (Maybe he should've READ the Bible instead of using it do come up with some cockamamie math equation.) Take care.

    Hi, Linda. Thanks. Oh yeah, those kiddie professionals are something else.

    Hi, Skippy. Yeah, under the circumstances, it wasn't exactly the time and place to belabor political differences. Always honor the office, if nothing else. HA, hope you've gotten your assurances from your Aussie friends. Looks like we're still here, though, eh? If you have any interest in amateur radio, it's never too late to get your license. We once tested a man for his entry level license who was well into his eighties, and who was grinning like a kid when passed.

    Y'all take care. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

  7. Again, no matter your politics, it is quite something to meet any heads of state. I took my grandchildren to see Obama when he was campaigning. It was quite a thrill and a memory that I hope the girls will always remember.

  8. Hi, Starting Over. You're absolutely right. I hope you got some pictures, too, to "help" the girls remember.

  9. Meeting the president is pretty awesome, and lol about the cameras!!