Dear Dudefest Forum,
Have any of you been yelled at by the Secret Service? I’ll tell you what, it’s not great. I’d probably put it somewhere in my top ten worst life moments. In the summer of 2008, I had just graduated high school and was about to start my freshman year at college. While today I’m pretty jaded about politics, I was all about it at that age. I was a typical naïve and pretentious kid who thought everyone who disagreed with me was an idiot. Like most people who fit this description, I wanted nothing more than to see Obama become president. I didn’t just support him, though. I knocked on doors and rang phones, volunteering my time to satisfy my illusion that somehow I was actually doing something of value. Side note - I did get to meet Obama when he opened his campaign office in New Hampshire, so I guess it was worth it. Anyway, my friend got a real job in the Massachusetts campaign office, and he called me occasionally to help out.
For this particular story, he called me up a few days before the event and asked if I wanted to meet Joe Biden. I obviously said yes, and he gave me the details. Biden was speaking at a fundraising event in Boston, and then would be traveling up to New Hampshire because that's one of the only states where people’s votes actually matter. They needed me to drive a U-Haul truck to the event, pick up Biden’s luggage, and drive it up to NH. I was also given a promise that I’d get to meet Biden, which would’ve been cool if it had actually happened. If that were the case, I would be writing a story about the time I got to meet Joe Biden, and everything went perfectly without any conflict. Which would be boring as shit.
Anyway, I drove to the U-Haul depot on the day of the event at about 2:45, fifteen minutes before my friend told me to be there. You know, I wouldn’t want to be late, right? Well, turns out I was late. As soon as I arrived, I get a call from my friend who sounds panicked. “Dude, Secret Service is breathing down my neck. They needed you to be here twenty minutes ago.” As I slowly processed the idea of the US Secret Service identifying me as a problem, I told him that I thought I was on time. “I know, I’m really sorry, I forgot to tell you that they updated their schedule,” my friend said.
Well, shit. Thanks a lot. I am now delaying the soon-to-be Vice President’s schedule and pissing off the Secret Service. That’s probably grounds to be put on some secret blacklist somewhere. Then, without warning, my friend says, “Ok, the head of Biden’s Secret Service team wants to talk to you.”
Before I had time to say, “Please don’t make me talk to the Secret Service,” I heard a stern, commanding voice exit the phone and enter my ear. “How many minutes until you arrive?” the deep voice asked, in the most serious tone I’ve ever heard. Not “How long will it take you?” or “When will you get here?”, but he specifically asked me how many minutes it would take. After frantically plugging in the address into the GPS, because this was 2008 and I still had a flip phone, it said twelve minutes. I told the agent I’d be there in fourteen, in case the GPS wasn’t taking into account red lights or any traffic. “Be here in eleven” was what I heard back. Yeah, he was that specific.
You know how in movies, the secret service is always portrayed as a group of expressionless guys in black suits and sunglasses, speaking in a low-octave monotone that manages to express a certain sense of “I don’t know what fun is and don’t ever fuck with me"? Well, after speaking to this guy on the phone, I can tell you that the movies hit the nail on the head. They got it exactly right. I tried to keep my cool, but since I was a skinny eighteen year-old that had just graduated high school a month or two earlier, I obviously had never been exposed to a real pressure-driven situation in my entire life and was not reacting well. I tried to calm myself when talking to the agent, but hints of my sheer terror escaped my mouth with every word I spoke. My speech was faster, shakier than normal, and I think the agent not only noticed it, but fed off of it, like he enjoyed putting me through this shit storm. He made me stay on the line as I drove, his voice getting louder and more aggressive the entire way until I was about a block away from the destination. He kept demanding to know where I was and how long I would take, also while telling me that the motorcade was about to leave and I was literally delaying the future Vice President's campaign. The aggressiveness peaked on my way down Storrow Drive, which Bostonians know is no place to be taking a U-Haul.
Now, I’m from Massachusetts, so I was familiar with Boston at that point, but I didn’t do much driving in the city. I got my permit two years earlier, so really, I hadn't done much driving at all. I didn’t know the streets of Boston well, but I knew that the city is notorious for small, windy, nonsensical streets with absolutely no grid system or order of any kind. That’s what happens when you decide to build roads based on the paths cows took in colonial times. Fuck cows. Anyway, in addition to the maze of streets, there is also the drivers to contend with. I think it’s common knowledge that Mass drivers are more aggressive, and in general “worse” than many other states. Blinkers are not used, getting cut off is an everyday occurrence, and driving two feet behind someone is their definition of giving someone room. Combine these drivers and the roads with the fact that I’m in a U-Haul, the widest vehicle I’ve ever driven by far, and I should’ve been shitting myself.
Here’s the thing, though. I was so amped up on adrenaline that I channeled my inner Masshole driver too. I knew I was bigger than everybody else, and accordingly drove like a maniac. I just assumed everyone would get out of my way, and they did. I was speeding the whole way, and for one moment, I swear I reached a state of total awareness. I could do no wrong. I was the master of my surroundings. Everyone bowed to me, praising the god I was. Not even the agent screaming in my ear scared me, his words just passed through me and out the other ear. It was like I reached nirvana; I was elevated above everyone. That made it all the more depressing when it came crashing down.
Don’t worry, I didn’t literally crash, but something almost as bad did happen. In my state of euphoria, I took a turn that soon became clear was an on-ramp to Storrow Drive. I thought I had programmed it into the GPS to specifically avoid this road, but it decided to fuck me over instead. Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Well, in addition to being one of the busiest roads in the city, it’s also infamous for having a series of low-hanging bridges over it. And when I say low-hanging, I mean that it would’ve ripped the top of the truck off, leaving debris everywhere and me in jail, if not in the hospital. I didn’t realize I was getting on the road until it was too late, and I felt like I had just hit a brick wall. My heart was racing, my mind was in shock, and all I could do was keep speeding down the road until I hit that first inevitable bridge. To make matters worse, that goddamn agent was still screaming into the phone as if that would get me there any faster. I muted the phone for a moment, and let out a scream. It made me feel a little better, but it still couldn’t hand me a ladder so I could climb out of the grave I dug myself.
Finally, the moment came. In the distance, I could see the first bridge coming up. As I tried to mentally prepare myself for stopping in front of a bridge on a busy highway, I heard a voice. Not the agent, but the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. It was the robotic woman’s voice from the GPS. She said, “in 200 feet, take the exit to the left.” It’s like this wonderful robot lady came to release me from prison. I shit you not, I swear I heard an angel’s trumpet in the distance. Maybe it was a car horn, I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I took the exit, which was maybe fifteen feet before the bridge, and the hotel I was stopping at was across the street. I made it. The secret service agent stopped yelling, and directed me where to pull up. A “good job” or “thank you” would’ve been cool, but I guess that’s not what they’re all about.
I parked, opened the door, and stepped out. The Secret Service agent walked over, smiled at me, and patted me on the back. Laughing, he said, “You had us worried for a few minutes, but everything’s fine now. Just be on time next time.” He said it as if it was supposed to make me feel better, but it just filled me with more fear. Also, there was no next time. My friend came over and told me that it was too late to meet Biden, but I could still drive the U-Haul up to New Hampshire. I told him that there was no fucking way I was getting back in that truck, so they got some other poor idiot to drive it. I guess my big takeaway here is that when the shit hits the fan, you just have to keep pushing through and it’ll soon be over, for better or for worse. Just pray you don’t crash into a bridge on the way there.
Henry "That's Not My Name" Henry is definitely NOT currently living in a cardboard box under a bridge. That would be crazy, right?