The motorcade was led by four guys on motorcycles, followed by one long, black limo with a governmental emblem on its side, followed by another couple of motorcycles. Sirens, flashing lights, the whole catastrophe. But this was at dinnertime, so maybe somebody important was just late for dinner. I went right back to my own, which was in the dining room of the Army & Navy Club in our nation’s capitol, my DC home away from home thanks to my late ex-Marine husband. There was a large table full of dark suits who were seated (when my guests and I were midway through our entrees) immediately behind me. After catching a few titles when introductions were being made I eavesdropped for a while – but we quickly decided they weren’t Cabinet level so probably not worth the trouble. That scene, though, was only a preamble. The real drama started about 7 hours later.
Flashing red, white and blue lights on the ceiling interrupted my dreams at 2:30 AM. Below my window – which was on the fourth floor of the Army & Navy Club, overlooking 17th Street and Farragut Square – were several DC police cars, including the one with revolving lights. Across 17th Street was a Metro bus. There seemed to be no passengers on the bus, but near the rear door a bit of action was visible: a large, yellow-jacketed person could be seen moving somewhat ominously to and fro. I drew the line at getting dressed, going downstairs and peering across into the bus window. Still, there was definitely something sinister going on. People with brains close their blinds when staying in street-front rooms near the center of cities such as Washington DC; the rest of us get up in the middle of the night to follow urban dramas. But this one was clearly something of national urgency.
Pretty soon a few more of DC’s finest appeared, joining the several who had ridden up on bikes earlier. While no guns were drawn, they were clearly ready for anything. Temperatures were dropping into the low 40s and I worried about their un-gloved hands. But they kept careful watch. This went on for about 20 chilly minutes. At approximately 3:10 AM, one of the watchers sprinted around the corner, and returned with an emergency van of the DC Fire Department. (More flashing lights, but I was already up.)
Not just up, I was glued to the window by now. Watching a crisis unfold before my very eyes. A Russian spy? An undercover hit man intercepted just before executing his crime? A dangerous escapee from international custody?
The bus lights went out. A hunched-over person emerged from behind the bus, followed by the large person in yellow vest. A side door opened in the FDDC van, the hunched-over person climbed in, the officers biked off, the vehicles turned out their lights and drove away. It was 3:16. Peace and quiet were restored to Farragut Square. Admiral Farragut (“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” – he’s on the pedestal at right, hidden by the trees) would undoubtedly have approved of the speedy solution to the problem of a homeless guy sleeping on a Metro bus. At least one observer, however, felt the entire episode had come to a rather anticlimactic end.
Your tax dollars at work.