I don’t need an alarm clock. I’m 56 years old and each morning about 5:30 my bladder tells me it’s time to get up and get moving.
Usually that isn’t a problem. For the past four weeks though it’s been a challenge.
Living in the streets with veterans who are holding a vigil outside of The Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington D.C. is a far cry from the carpeted rooms of the Capitol Hilton just around the corner and down the block.
For the last month when my internal alarm clock sounded it’s been dark outside. An easy way to stop the alarm from ringing is to take about eleven steps to a spot between two black SUVs with government plates that are perpetually parked waiting for dignitaries.
At 5:30 in the morning even this spot in Washington D.C. is quiet and still; it’s a safe place to answer when nature calls.
This morning, Thanksgiving here in the states, was different though. My “alarm” went off later than normal and when I opened my eyes the sun was shining. Unzipping the sleeping bag with one hand and reaching for my cell phone with the other the digits told me it was already 7:30.
I stood, stretched and surveyed the terrain. South towards The White House the streets were empty. North towards “K” Street and home to the majority of the lobbyists was also empty and still. No one was on the sidewalk either. It’s Thanksgiving and the bureaucrats are all home waiting on turkey and football.
Except for the seven or eight guys still asleep on the sidewalk I was alone. With nature’s call getting louder I stepped to my chosen spot between the two black SUVs with government plates that are perpetually parked waiting for dignitaries.
Just as I unzipped and started to wash down the overnight grime on the pavement, a U.S. Secret Service agent on a bicycle skidded to a stop. I wasn’t caught with my pants down, but you get the idea.
As I was draining the last of the alarm clock, two more Secret Service agents – these two in marked cruisers – pulled up and stepped out. So Thanksgiving morning in the U.S. and I’m greeted by three of the guys that protect President Obama.
“What are you doing?” asked one officer.
I had a million one-liners that I wanted to toss at him, but figured since I still wanted to leave in a little over a week I kept my mouth shut as I zipped my pants up.
Listening patiently to his lecture, I smiled, nodded and threw in the appropriate “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” at the right moments.
After being threatened with jail, a $25 ticket and a turkey sandwich courtesy of the U.S. Secret Service they made it clear they didn’t want to catch me doing “that” again and they rode off.
When they were safely out of earshot, the million one-liners that I had stored up in my brain started leaking out of my mouth. Yah, I told them a thing or two – once they were halfway down the block.
Being properly chastised, I stepped from between the two black SUVs with government plates that are perpetually parked waiting for dignitaries and lit a cigarette; I got to thinking how nice it will be one day for my biggest struggle being a search for the remote control.