Last weekend’s Labor Day revival of the old Field and Fair Day reminded me of Field and Fair Day in the summer of 1992 — a day neither my wife nor I will ever forget.
Dianna 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 “unnoticed” among the crowd.
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 bandstand that would soon serve as Mr. Quayle’s speaker’s platform.
So, while I continued to amuse myself, she crossed Oak to inspect the “goods,” not noticing three shiny black Cadillacs approaching from the south. They turned right from South Rose onto Oak and stopped with artful precision just behind the bandstand — no more than 20 feet from my dear wife.
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.
Finding herself within spitting distance of the second most powerful man in the world, reasoning that he puts his pants on like everyone else and enjoying the fact that providence had brought them together, she decided to take full 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. Their attention was focused on the stage, not my wife, who was closing from their rear like a human torpedo. 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 pedal pushers, or a panicked radio call to “watch your six” in their earpieces, but the mood changed very quickly.
In an effort to shield the one committed to their care, they turned and took a defensive position. They were completely surprised and embarrassed by the obvious breach. One agent cried out sharply the only words he could think of: “Where the hell did YOU come from?”
Sensing rejection, my wife stopped in her tracks, took a reflexive 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 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 Dianna’s actions served to improve their procedures, raised national security and made us all just a little bit safer.
Keith Colgan is a local photographer and website designer who runs the Lodi360.com website.