The first unusual thing I noticed while walking up Central Park West on Friday night was how civilian-free the sidewalks were. NYPD officers and barricades were everywhere. As soon as the lady walking 10 feet ahead (the only other pedestrian in sight) breezed through an open passageway between two of the barricade gates, to get to the other side of 81st Street, an officer slammed the gates shut, right in front of me.
Five years ago, I would have made a snide comment. These days, I handle my outrage in a more dignified manner, coldly ignoring, with a faint smile, the person who has just wronged me. As far as I was concerned this cop wasn’t even there, our noses not many inches apart, subtly trying to get my attention. I had music to listen to, phone apps to fiddle with, a barricade gate to lean against, trees to stare at.
But my detainment was taking forever. Two of the officers directing this intersection’s vehicular traffic were dressed almost militarily. When I finally broke down and acknowledged the cop who’d been minding me, I got the full briefing.
“It’s for the president. He’s coming through any minute now.”
I yanked the buds out of my ears and, like twenty-first-century Ani DiFranco, wasn’t angry anymore. Obama was about to drive crosstown, through Central Park, on his way to dinner on the Upper West Side.
“Ya wanna meet him?” my cop asked, with an “I can tell you’ve had a long week and deserve a million-dollar pick-me-up” expression.
“Yeah, can I?!” All of a sudden, I adored the NYPD. This cop was a younger, jollier, Irisher version of Joe Pesci at the beginning of Home Alone, when Pesci masqueraded as a police officer. They have the same accents, the same tonal qualities.
“Nah. Not even I get to.”
I went back to snubbing him.
When you’re unexpectedly detained for more than 20 minutes, it gives you time to think about topics you might not normally dwell on for long, such as: When was the last time I got held up by a presidential motorcade, and how does Now compare to Then? It was two years ago, in Midtown. The young cop who drove an NYPD van behind Obama’s SUV had a nervously thrilled look on his face when he gingerly turned onto 7th Avenue, as if this was the most important task he’d ever carry out, fully aware he was in the thick of something not everyone can say they’ve done. He was having a deathbed-memory moment – in his final hours, should he get proper time to reflect, he’ll dredge up that drive and feel warmer.
My cop from the other night chomped on gum, and clowned around about the President of the United States having an Upper West Side-based girlfriend. When I told him I was no longer pissed about all the waiting, he said he was pissed and wanted to go home.