One afternoon in August of '06, I went to the grocery store. This grocery store was almost directly south of me but down in the hill quite a ways. I was loading the groceries in my car when I looked up the hill towards my house and saw thick, thick, billowing black smoke right where my house would be. I sort of panicked. I called Sarah on the cell phone. She was home down in the basement. I said, "Sarah, is our house on fire?" She said very quietly, "I don't think so, but I'll go check." Mind you, it looked like the whole neighborhood was on fire and she said, "I don't think so, but I'll go check."
She came back to the phone and very excitedly and with panic in her voice said, Our house isn't on fire but the canyon next to us is!" Well...being the calm, gentle soul that I am (NOT), I raced up the hill. There were several firetrucks in the neighborhood and firemen all over the place. I live very close to a canyon with an empty lot next to me that is mostly dried weeds. In August they make great fire fuel. I ran and checked on the widow who lives very close to me and she was very calmly sitting in her kitchen just watching the firemen on the hill in her backyard. Staying calm during fires is not exactly my specialty.
At any rate, the firemen did what they do best and put out the fire. I did what I do best and worried. The firemen said they would stay for several hours to make sure the hot spots in the dry brush was completely safe and that all would be well. Yeah, right.
The house next to the empty lot next to me was vacant at the time. Their backyard touched the canyon border just next to where the fire was. This house had a great platform ledge that one could stand on and get a great view of the whole canyon. The morning after the fire, being the dutiful worrier that I was, I hurried over to the platform and made sure that everything was fine. It was of course because the firemen did exactly what they said they would. I stood on the perch for a long time surveying everything until I decided there was nothing left to worry about. Yeah right. Then I hurried home.
I noticed a helicopter right overhead but I paid no attention to it. We frequently had helicopters in our neighborhood because there was a helicopter pad on top of the local hospital not far from my house. I gave no heed to this particular helicopter which kept circling around and around and around like he was circling a perimeter. It seemed that my house was the far end of one side of his circle.
I then remembered that President Bush was in town staying at a hotel downtown. He was scheduled to go from his hotel in a motorcade downtown for a meeting that morning. I figured the helicopter must be a secret service helicopter doing a perimeter check of some sort. But my mind was on the canyon fire and making sure all was well there so I didn't give it another thought.
I hurried home as I said before. It was somewhere about 8:20 or so in the morning if I remember correctly. It was a lovely day and I love the morning sunshine. I have six battery operated cellular shades covering my living room windows, three small and three very large ones. If you hit the remote control just right, you can get all six shades to operate at almost exactly the same time. It gives a great blast of morning sunshine. It also makes the secret service people apparently very nervous.
I would have had to pick the EXACT time the helicopter was on my end of the perimeter circle just as President Bush was in his motorcade headed downtown for his meeting which was in the direction of my house to open my shades. Mind you, he was way down the hill. I was far away. But I guess the secret service helicopter people saw the six shades all rise simultaneously and figured who knows what. That was it. The helicopter literally dropped down and turned on its side almost and hovered right close to my house. By this time I was on the deck because it was a beautiful morning and I wanted to sit in the sun. The shades finished opening just as I got out to the deck. I said to myself, "I guess that wasn't the best timing to do that." So I sat there on my bench just looking at this secret service helicopter hovering over me which was obviously looking back at me. I just sat there looking at them and kept smiling. I figured by that time they were probably taking pictures of me to check me out or something or using those really long camera things to look in my windows to make sure I didn't have guns or something pointed at the President. I thought to myself, "Well, at least my hair looks good," because I had just colored it that morning. Silly me, always worried about my hair.
The helicopter was there for at least a full minute or two. That's a really long time when you are starting to wonder if you are somehow in trouble. I guess they saw the crazy lady running between houses, standing on the platform ledge for a long time, running back home, and then the shades open as if on cue. Ooops.
I finally went back in the house because I had dishes to do. I stood at the sink doing my dishes and I could hear the helicopter hovering directly over my house. Were they checking my phone lines? Who knows. So I threw down my dishtowel and went out to the deck. They were indeed directly over the top of my house. I leaned backwards over the deck railing, threw my arms open wide and with a my eyes opened very wide said, "WHAT?!?!" really loudly. With that, they flew away very quickly over the mountains. The President must have made his meeting. :)
- Don't go grocery shopping in August.
- Let the firemen do their jobs and trust them.
- Don't run between houses when the President is in town.
- Especially do not EVER open all the shades at the same time when the President is motorcading towards your end of the valley.
- Always make sure your hair looks good when the secret service is taking pictures of you from their helicopter.
- Write these kinds of stories down so your kids will tell it correctly. :)