Tuesday, August 2, 2011

VIP Cookies, an EOD Adventure

Not all of my time as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician was spent blowing stuff up. We also had a mission to support the Secret Service with bomb search and if necessary response services. We did this for the UN when it was in session and for the President or Vice President whenever they were traveling in our area. During the Presidential campaigns, we also supported all of the candidates and spent weeks on the road starting with the primaries all the way through to the election.
We were given $400 dollars to purchase suites. Even in 1986, you couldn't get much for $400, but we were expected to have at least two suites a nice pair of shoes and as many shirts and ties as were needed. If you ever attended one of these functions, it was easy to distinguish between the Secret Service and us. Our suites were cheap and our hair was a lot shorter. We also didn’t have a giant stick up our ass.
I'm not sure why most of the Secret Service agents were such pricks to us. Maybe it was the fact that we got to move around, while they mostly had to stand in front of doors for hours at a time. Or maybe they just felt superior. Who knows, but after a few weeks, I gave up trying to be nice and get along. Especially after the fourth time they made sure to order enough food for all of their agents, but conveniently forgot us. It was common to go without a meal break for eight hours during the Primaries in 1987-88. We were always short staffed and had to drive from function to function without a break. There were also periods of time we didn’t get paged for three days and kicked back at a hotel, but we made up for it running solid for the next forty eight hours.
Since we didn’t have time to stop and eat and weren't given a plate at 99% of all the functions we supported, we scrounged any chance we could. As luck would have it, the VIPs were usually brought into the events via the kitchen. We were responsible for searching the VIPs route in and out and if he/she stayed at the hotel, their room as well. We found it very convenient that there were large rolls of saran wrap in the walk-in coolers. I would search the entire cooler, then scarf down a half a pound of cold cuts. Once I was no longer dizzy with hunger, I would wrap up another half pound for whoever I was teamed up with.
Sometimes, there is no event. Sometimes, the VIP is just staying at a hotel and they roll in through the front door. In those cases, we primarily search the room and the rooms on either side, above and below. It was during one of these times that we were supporting Vice President Bush. I know there are a lot of people that don’t care for the Bush family, especially George Junior, but let me tell you a couple of reason why I liked the Bush Senior.
First of all, he served in WWII as a dive bomb pilot. Regular pilots were crazy enough, but dive bombers did just what it sounds like. They were launch off a carrier, flew toward the enemy's battle ships and carriers, gained a bunch of altitude, and dove at the big ships. At the last minute, they would pull up, often pulling enough G forces to black out, and then they would fly back and reload a new bomb and do it all over again. Bush senior was shot during one of those missions. After the war, he entered government service and spent the rest of his working life in service to his country.
That's was enough for me to warm up to him, but in the two times I was within ten feet of him, he noticed and took the time to talk to me. The first time, he was at some hotel giving a speech, and he'd been around long enough to know I was EOD. I was 19, but looked about 17. He shook my hand, thanked me for my service and made small talk. I was impressed and happy, but didn’t think much of it. Three months later, I saw him before his speech at the dedication of Ellis Island. They were finally cleaning the place up and we'd spent a full day crawling through a buildings coated in a hundred years of pigeon poop. We cleaned up for the big show, and he shook my hand and said, "Minnesota right?" He'd remembered where I was from. That impressed me. We chatted for about five minutes and then it was time for his speech. Say what you want about the man, he had class.
And now back to the story currently in progress.
I wasn't starving, but I was a bit peckish. We usually had a lot of time to search, but we were called in last minute and the Vice President was ten minutes away. It was then that my sergeant taught me how to search a room expediently. You see the reason we were there was to make sure no one blew up whichever VIP we were protecting. Back in the 80's, they didn’t have a bunch of micro circuit boards and tiny power supplies. Hiding a bomb that could be remotely controlled was hard to do and left signs. Or, it was wired into existing power supplies. So, while my sergeant hit the bathroom and turned on and off all of the switches and gizmos, I jumped up and down on the bed and chairs. Yeah, you guessed it. If there was something there, it would go off one us instead of the Vice President. But hey, we got an extra $150 a month hazardous duty pay!
It was while I was bouncing on the bed, that I noticed the plate of cookies on the bedside table. It was a big plate and they were big cookies.
Chocolate chip.
Six of them.
I knew I didn’t have much time. My sergeant would never approve, but it occurred to me that six just didn't look right on the plate. Five, if arranged properly would not only look better, but seriously, how many big ass cookies did one Vice President need?
It was so big it wouldn't fit in my jacket pocket so I had to break it into four pieces. I rearranged the cookies that were left and brushed the crumb evidence off my hands and suit. We were in and out of that room in less than five minutes. A Secret Service agent, with requisite stick in his ass, was waiting to guard the room. I smiled and waved at him and we walked away. My sergeant suggested we go up to the roof, so I followed. We were in Boston, and it was a warm spring day and the view was magnificent. I was feeling pretty good, until my sergeant said, "Okay, hand over the cookie."
Apparently he'd done the math and noticed six had become five. I figured my ass was grass. I pulled out the four pieces and he studied them and then me. Then he took two of the pieces and quickly gobbled them down. "This never happened," he said and walked back to the elevator.
It was a damned good cookie. Too bad there hadn't been any milk.

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