Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The G8 Chickens
Slurping coffee. Stressing out.
Tap, tap, tap.
Deadlines are many and close in the summertime at a community newspaper in cottage country. Publications that were lean all winter are now fat and spicy with ads. Summer tourist guides, maps and specialty magazines are lined up like pregnant mothers and we're popping them out sans epidurals, only caffeine and sugar and blood pressure pills keeping us from jumping off the main street bridge.
Outside our door, excitement is building.
The G8 is coming to Muskoka for a day and a half but the preparation, which has been going on for two years, is building to a crazy crescendo. It is the day before the summit of world leaders is to begin and the highways are full of police cars, motorcades and army vehicles. The skies are full of helicopters and jets.
We huddle in our chairs, trying to concentrate on work, but every so often a resounding roar shakes the building as a jet flies overhead on its way to the nearby Muskoka Airport. When that happens we leap to our feet and run out the door, getting an unparalleled view as the low-flying planes go by. We're like laying hens, all discombobulated and excited, clucking and carrying on before being corralled back to our desks to lay another egg.
Our boss is getting nervous. He's trying to keep us focussed, but it's tough. Yesterday we all flew out of the building when an earthquake rattled us like dice in a cup. It's been years, maybe decades, since the last earthquake in this area. That, combined with the G8 preparations, has been throwing us off our game.
He throws us some special feed. Fruit and doughnuts. We peck away at it nervously, our eyes darting from our monitors to the window.
Suddenly the windows start to shake. Another earthquake? No! Another plane! We leap from our desks, run out to the parking lot and look up. The biggest, blackest plane I have ever seen is overhead, so close we can almost touch it, and it is roaring. We can read U.S. Air Force on its side, that's how close it is.
Gail Knaus, our production supervisor, who is probably the most wound up of all of us, starts to squeal.
"It's Obama! He's here!"
The U.S. President is definitely the biggest fish at this meeting of big fish and the thought that he might be arriving, just a few kilometres away, is more than we can bear.
"Let's go see," I say, running back inside to grab my purse. "Everyone get your I.D. in case we're stopped."
While we're all excited, some of us are more dedicated (nervous) than others, and they go back to their desks. Me, Gail, Lisa Garbett, Leah Burton and Jason Willis have decided to throw caution to the wind. WTF, how often does a U.S. Air Force plane land at the tiny Muskoka Airport? Never! Would we tell our grandchildren about working yet another day? Or would we tell them about the time we tried to meet Obama?
We pile in my Jeep and take off. The excitement is so high that I find it hard to drive in a straight line. We're all talking at 90 miles an hour, all at once. It's like a booze cruise, only we're not teenagers and there's no booze. Actually it's more like that movie Chicken Run, where all the hens try to fly the coop.
As we turn off the main highway we expect to be stopped by security but there's no one around. As we approach the airport we see the huge charcoal-coloured plane has landed. It is so big, bigger than all the airport buildings put together. The airfield is full of army vehicles, soldiers, police and weird equipment we speculate is radar gear.
Up ahead we spot a car pulled over at the side of the road. It's Karen Longwell, one of the newspaper's photographers, taking pictures from a safe vantage point. We slow down, yell something at the window at her and, all pumped up with foolish adrenaline, we head for the airport gates.
I'm thinking, there's no way they're going to let us get close but Gail yells at me to keep going, so we do. Incredibly we pull right into the airport parking lot, where there are all kinds of people in uniform and hunky looking guys out of uniform. Gail immediately gets all giggly... she has a thing for hunky guys. I mean, who doesn't... except Leah, of course. And Jason, who's wedged in the back seat with Lisa and Gail.
We pile out of the Jeep and head for the gate, a colourful group of pullets clucking and giggling, anticipating getting the boot any moment.
But we never got that boot. It was pretty clear there were no leaders on the plane - when the planes carrying leaders arrived, nobody got within a 5 mile radius of the airport. This plane did have an interesting cargo, however – a bunch of Secret Service guys, all chiseled and hard-bodied and young and, did I mention hard-bodied???? It must be a prerequisite, being good looking, to get a job guarding the president.
So we have a good time, talking to Secret Service guys, OPP officers and other gawkers like ourselves. Photographer Karen comes and takes our photos and we giggle and carry on for a bit longer before deciding to get back in the Jeep and go back to work. We're all strapped in and ready to go when a particularly hunky Secret Service guy walks to a car parked nearby.
Gail goes looney.
"Let me out!" she says, squished between Jason and Lisa. She doesn't wait for Jason to move, though. She practically crawls over him in her attempt to get out.
The poor guy. He gets a nervous look on his face as Gail flutters up to him. I mean, she looks harmless, this middle-aged woman fluttering and giggling, but you never know. We hope he doesn't shoot her.
We watch from the Jeep, making wisecracks and groaning with embarrassment. There's our fearless leader, out slobbering over the Secret Service guy.
Lucky for her, he starts to smile. Then laugh.
Then, unexpectedly, she throws her arms around him and hugs him. Hugs him! He looks startled but then he hugs her back and laughs.
We're hooting and squealing and laughing and giggling and just beside ourselves. Gail lets the hapless Secret Service guy go and she crawls back in the Jeep, triumphant, glowing, excited beyond belief.
"I welcomed him to Canada!" she says. We laugh like loons, laugh all the way back to the office, laugh all the rest of the day and the rest of the week.
The chickens go back to roost, back to our deadlines, back to our stress. But we have a gleam in our eyes. We have glimpsed the glamour of the outside world and our coop will never be the same.