On a recent Sunday afternoon, a neighbor from the very roomy house at the end of our block stopped by to say Joe Biden would be attending an event at his place around 5:30 p.m. the following Thursday. There would be a lot of to-do, he said—cops, caterers, Secret Service—and he wanted to inform me. The next day, an alert and personable young woman from the White House came by and gathered the names of the people living at my house.
Tuesday and Wednesday were uneventful, and then Thursday came: another scorcher. People toted coolers. Vehicles entered and exited. The preparations resembled those of a large wedding, except for the guy from the sheriff's department with dogs, outsize emergency management vehicles and, of course, the Secret Service. Shortly before 5:30 p.m., a helicopter hovered overhead. Minutes later, a small motorcade headed down the block, flags fluttering on the front hood, kicking up some dust and glinting in the sunlight. Then it was quiet: I stepped outside and walked to the end of my driveway. A few Secret Service guys strode past, following the dust, not looking at me. I was relieved when Cedric from next door came over. "You been watching from inside?" he asked.
"Yep, I just saw the big man arrive."
"Oh, no. That wasn't him. He's been inside for 20 minutes or so," Cedric said. "Those are just FBI, Secret Service. People like that."
Cedric is 9.
"Oh, right. I guess you've been through this before? I heard Obama was here a few years ago."
"Yes, but this is a bigger deal," said Cedric. "He was just a candidate then."
He gave me a little wave before going over to talk to some Secret Service guys. I headed back inside, thinking you have to be that young not to be unnerved by the Secret Service.
I never laid eyes on the vice president, but his visit did yield some neighborhood windfall. The woods behind my house were pronounced free of incendiary devices by the selfless sniffing of two German shepherds. On the big day, four or five men either riding or wielding pieces of heavy-duty lawn equipment went to work cutting, trimming and buffing the leafy excesses of our unpaved dead end street. I suspected this federally mandated landscaping was a countermeasure against evildoers hiding in the knee-high grass—very small evildoers, of course. But it turned out that a neighbor had been calling the Town of Chapel Hill for a year, asking them to send that crew to our street; when she said Biden was visiting, they arrived within 20 minutes.
Perhaps the most unexpected result of the veep's visit was that, for a few days, my nagging suspicion that I'm being watched by unseen forces actually held some merit. Now that the Secret Service and the helicopters are gone, my delusions have once again returned to being unfettered by reality, but it was nice to have some backup. And one week hence, our block still looks smarter than usual. Now that's change I can believe in.