I think, as a courtesy, this may have been somewhat over the top, but I am not a diplomat, I suppose.
Contrary to what you are already setting your surmisers to surmise, this is NOT going to be a litany of complaints about the fact that our already traffic-impaired City on the Danube has literally been closed down today, forcing people to either a) take extraordinary measures to come to work or b) stay home in their pyjamas and watch Oprah. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
This morning, from around ten until around eleven, I walked the 25-minute distance to my office. We all knew that there would be traffic problems today, and some of us prepared for it. I left my home with a backpack full of electronics, a new shirt, music, and a full measure of determination.
What I saw along the Human Walkway which was New Belgrade was as much of a slice of life in the White City as I should ever have hoped to see. People were swarming along the sidewalks while the busses stagnated along the roads in long lines. No cars moved.
Some were wearing jogging suits, carrying briefcases. Some were in business suits carrying Ipod cases. Some seemed to have been waiting all of their lives for this day and looked happy, laughing their way through the streams of humanity. Others (many others) grumbling, spoke loudly into mobile phones, gesticulating widely for the benefit of passers-by who should take note of their Indignation. At least one of these gesticulations resulted in a hand-to-face injury.
No, it was not me.
I observed people carrying fishing poles on the way to the river. I watched normally office bound fashion victims making their way gingerly along the street in high heels. Bank managers and kiosk owners walked side by side. I passed my neighborhood barber and the Governor of the National Bank. Even he, I thought. Even he.
I composed a few letters on the way:
Do you really think that these security precautions upsetting our city streets have made people want to shoot you LESS or more?
A lot of backpacks (including mine) were in evidence. Some people pulled rolling suitcases along, mistakenly having taken a lot of papers home last night to work on them. One man was wearing a tie and jacket and shorts. My hope is that he plans to change in the office. Large groups of people milled about the bus stations, waiting for the hubbub to pass. Hubbub is the technical term for Vice-President of the United States.
We looked at each other, watching for signs of how to respond emotionally to this Crisis. There were a prodigious amount of us who sneered openly. Some carried the sad faces of resignation, ready to get back to the office or kafana and shake their heads because they KNEW it would be this way. Some of us were just blank-faced and sweating with the unaccustomed practice of placing our feet one in front of the other as a means of transportation.
Did you ever stop to think that the police are doing this NOT to protect you from us, but to protect US from you? After all, your predecessor Dick Cheney made it legal for vice presidents to shoot people in the face....
I began to wonder, as you do as you walk along, what was happening in the rest of the city. If all the cops are guarding the streets for the vice-presidential feet (or wheels), should we not be planning to loot the city blind? I then formulated a business plan for placing ice-cream and coffee concessions on each street corner where pedestrians were detained for extended periods in case the motorcade should motor by. As we waited on the corner of Proleterske Solidarnosti and Bulevar Zorana Djindjica, across from Société Générale, I wondered about the guy next to me who was CLEARLY late for work and was about to tell his boss that he was stood for an hour on the other side of the street, detained by the police. I could see the wheels spinning as he embellished and polished the excuses one by one.
Joe Biden has given us the chance to see each other at our best and worst, on public display, along our cracked and unmaintained sidewalks. He has afforded us an opportunity to break with dull routines and replace them with grueling activity instead. We should thank you, Joe.
Thanks for the visit. We really appreciate it. But next time, send a postcard.