I live five doors down from the Obama’s house in Chicago. The proximity to political bigwigs wasn’t necessarily a factor when we rented our place, and we actually used to park in front there all the time. Then we discovered that Ellis actually had better street parking and was less of a schlep.
I didn’t think much about any of this until the presidential campaign really got underway in 2008. Suddenly, Greenwood was blocked off, and there were cop cars stationed every twenty feet. In the run-up to election day, Chicago’s finest were joined by what can only be described as a smokin’ hot security detail: dudes in navy polos, bulletproof vests, and regulation khaki pants.* I once saw a giant white Escalade dropping off an honest-to-God sniper on my street. Presumably, he then went and climbed a tree and sat there perched with his rifle or whatever they carry, ready to pick off intruders. Eek.
In the three months between the election and the inauguration, the security ratcheted up to a fever pitch. Three blocks of my street were barricaded in with cement road blocks. All the bus stops were removed. Cars were diverted elsewhere, and the residents who wanted to park had to submit to having their trunks sniffed by giant German Shepherds. Pedestrians were discouraged, and those of us who live here had to have our bags searched and IDs checked every time we came and went.
A wrap-around gate encircles the building, but we have two separate entrances for each part of it. I quickly learned that entering on the Ellis side meant I could bring my groceries and toilet paper in without being wanded or patted down. For the most part. Before I had an Illinois driver’s license, I had to carry my voter registration card around as proof of residency. Once, a secret service guy stopped me.
“Ma’am, where are you going?”
Um. Here? My building? Where I, you know, live?
“Just inside, sir.” I’m going to what, jump the cast iron fences of the next five lawns?!
“Well, we need you to use the other entrance.”
“Sure, just, it’s not connected? Inside?”
“Oh, well. Okay then.”
This happened more than I would care to repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I want the leader of the free world to be protected. I just wish when they come to town they’d stayed in a goddamned hotel, with security cameras and CCTV and secure entranceways and egresses, is all.
Given the level of security, I’m also kind of surprised that you can still blithely explore the surrounding area using Google Street View. I was almost 100 percent positive that great stretches of the neighborhood would be grayed out, like Area 51 or Roswell or some such.
I don’t necessarily feel safer, just massively inconvenienced.
Like the time when I had to explain to AT&T–whose customer service department must have been trained in Soviet post-offices for their interminable fucking bureaucracy and insistence on making everything just that much worse– that, no, they couldn’t fix any of the telephone poles or wires within a half mile of my house, because that would necessitate running cables to 47th, which is now a protected area, because the president, yes, I do mean President Obama, and I’m sure you were a McCain-Palin supporter since this call center is probably located in Provo or Texarkana or somewhere god-awful where people think cappuccino comes out of a machine at the Dairy Mart and costs 79 cents and I know you think he’s in league with the terrorists but that’s not really the issue it’s more like could you just please for the love of Christ find a way to reroute the DSL wires so that we don’t cause a security breach and not disable my internet every time a new tenant moves in to the building and not mysteriously slap a $200 charge on my direct bill which I then have to spend an entire afternoon on the phone contesting owing to your utter shit-ass incompetence?
*These guys were hot. In stark contrast to the tubby whiteness of the CPD. Google image searches for “Secret Service” don’t turn up the same stunning caliber of attractiveness. Most of those guys look like miniature jujitsu experts or minor supporting characters from The Sopranos.