It was Field & Fair Day in the summer of 1992 and my wife and I got up early to eat a pancake breakfast and experience the thrill of seeing hot air balloons rise from the grassy field at Hutchins Street Square. We were not disappointed.
With breakfast and hot air behind us, we and a crowd of several hundred prepared ourselves for the next event. Our collective eyes would soon see the Vice President of the United States of America. Yes! Lodi was about to receive a visit from Mr. Dan Quayle on a campaign tour through the Central Valley. Pretty exciting stuff for Lodi.
Well, things were taking a little longer than expected. Slightly bored with the wait, I began to notice well groomed men in dark suits and sun glasses talking into their sleeves. I counted four and entertained myself by watching them move among the crowd “unnoticed”. My wife, on the other hand, had spotted a promising yard sale at a house just across Oak Street, no more than 40 feet from behind the elevated band stand that would soon serve as Mr. Quayle’s speaker platform.
So, while I continued to amuse myself, she began to cross Oak to inspect the “goods”, not noticing three shiny black Cadillac’s approaching from the South. They turned right from S. Rose onto Oak and stopped with artful precision just behind the band stand … no more than 20 feet from my dear wife. Be advised, earlier that morning I had given her strict instructions on how much money she could spend and made her promise to leave the affair with me by noon. But I had neglected to tell her the proper way to approach the Vice President of the United States of America.
Finding herself within spitting distance of the second most powerful man in the world, she reasoned that … since he puts his pants on like everyone else and providence had brought them together, she would take advantage of the opportunity and introduce herself.
Mr. Quayle exited from one vehicle and was joined immediately by two men in black who confidently positioned themselves at his side. Unfortunately, their attention was focus on the stage, not my wife, who was closing from the rear like a torpedo. Now, within inches of her target, she reached to execute a friendly shoulder tap in prelude to a greeting (knowing my wife, this would likely have included a hug and peck on the check).
I have no idea what alerted the Praetorian Guard. It could have been peripheral vision, the sound of peddle pushers, or a panic radio call of “watch your six” through their earpieces, but things changed quickly. In an effort to shield the one committed to their care, they turned and took a defensive position. But having been so completely surprised and embarrassed by the obvious breach, all one could hear was the masculine cry, “Where the hell did YOU come from?”. Sensing rejection, my wife stopped, took a step back, and obeyed the subsequent order to move away. Mr. Quayle was escorted to the stage, gave his speech, and eventually failed re-election.
In the end, we didn’t spend any more than we could afford and we left by noon. I enjoyed the day because it was so different than most and my wife learned a life lesson from people with guns and no sense of humor. I wonder what the Secret Service learned? I like to imagine that her actions served to improve their procedures, raised national security, and made us all just a little bit safer.
by Keith Colgan