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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When the Secret Service Comes Calling

When the Secret Service Comes Calling

In my humble opinion, the 'Wild Wild West' was among the top five shows of its era. It had everything it needed to dominate the 8 p.m. timeslot versus the other two networks of the mid-60s. Two sharp dressing, good looking, uniquely gifted Secret Service Agents traveling by private rail car across the country protecting POTUS18 Ulysses S. Grant, US currency and thwarting both domestic and foreign terror threats on a weekly basis. Without forewarning - as the preseason promo had not been fully developed in 1965 - I and millions around the country were pleasantly surprised as the science fiction western made its debut on Friday September 17, 1965.

For most viewers, the 'Wild Wild West' was the first television portrayal of the Secret Service that anyone had been exposed to at the time. The Service got plenty of attention following the Kennedy Assassination but that was such a volatile time, the nation’s recovery took precedent. Few noticed that the Agents’ jobs became dramatically more difficult the moment Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the 36th POTUS aboard Air Force One. As our new government flew out of Texas on that tragic day, the enormous responsibility borne by our U.S. Secret Service became more difficult by a factor of 10.

Set in the late 1860s, the ‘Wild Wild West’ premiered 100 years following the assassination of the 16th POTUS, Lincoln, and a mere two years following the assassination of 35th POTUS Kennedy. Ironic timing of this sort would certainly raise eyebrows if not ire today. Regardless of the timing, it was a great show. Week after week, Jim and Artie saved the country and the President from certain disaster. Being a lifetime fan of the series and reading my own press clippings I started to wonder if an encounter with the Secret Service was in my immediate future. Before I knew it, Murphy’s Law kicked into high-gear and you can predict what happened next. That’s right. The door bell rang and guess who came to visit?! Hint: It sure as Hell wasn’t James West and Artemus Gordon.

The two men and one woman that were standing in the door when I opened it did not need to tell me who they were. I just stopped breathing. Everything else happened according to the way they planned it. First, I was alone. Second, I never thought of running. Where was I going to go with my lungs empty and my brain being deprived of oxygen. Funny thing, the bigger or more functional your brain is, the quicker it stops sending intelligent impulses when you stop breathing. Coupled with the fact that my heart was lapsing into arrhythmia, running was the last thing on my mind.

I was in a crisis. My best recollection is that the female agent helped me to a chair in my den. At this point my bodily functions are beginning to return as I am helped to a chair I tend to direct unwelcomed guests to. What happened next is just what you might imagine.
A statement was made by the lead agent, followed by a series of questions in rapid succession by all three agents. There were answers from me that they appeared to already have the answer to. And then they told me I could breath again.

At this point I feel safe in saying that the Secret Service is so much more than people think.

Another safe thing that I can say about the Secret Service is that they are some of the most intelligent people in the world. I’m sure their work is aided by advanced technology but they knew the night I was conceived and I’m not even sure my parents knew that.

Other really cool things about the Secret Service that made the encounter memorable were more non-verbal. For instance when they come to visit you for a perceived threat or indiscretion, no one speaks above a whisper. When the feeling came back into my fingers, I wanted to ask the lead agent to speak up but thought better of the idea. Most impressive of all might be the fact that you have no idea they’re coming until they are on your doorstep. There were millions of Google results for Solly Forell on March 21, 2010 and in the days that followed all implying the same dire ‘consequences and repercussions’ for the author of two racy ‘tweets’. Given all the calls for my head on a platter, the visit wasn’t a total surprise but the subtle and sudden arrival was something to marvel at - just not at that moment!

And how they managed it I’ll never know but not a single neighbor knew a thing until my visitors were gone and I could breathe again without actually saying the words first. Even the nosiest woman on the block hadn’t a clue. She’s still clueless and still a devout follower of President Barack Obama.

Myrtles’ gossip radar has her asking all the neighbors if they know anything that’s going on in the neighborhood which is ‘Myrtle code’ for “I suspect something but can’t get to the bottom of it!” She’s convinced that something happened. It’s a gift.
She is also convinced that someone knows and isn’t telling. Bless her heart, Myrtle is about to incinerate her wig fuming over the perceived slight.

A select group of confidants now know of the visit and are sworn to never let Myrtle know that my testicles were in a Treasury Department vice. We all crack up at the thought of knowing the juiciest gossip of the new gossip season and freezing ’Nosy Myrtle’ out. We’ve all got a few neighbors like Myrtle. I guess Myrtle is like a lot of Obama supporters - left-out and clueless. God love ‘em.

As far as the brief discussion went - things discussed with the Secret Service are best not divulged. They have the most interesting way of communicating this point. Suffice it to say I will consider my words more carefully in the future; especially words which might cause the Secret Service to return.

Even the Secret Service couldn’t hope to slip past ‘Nosy Myrtle’ twice!