Tuesday, October 13, 2009

High Maintenance

So the other day I was driving to a friend’s house, Milo nestled into his carseat in the back. On Sunday, the roads in Lilongwe are pretty empty, so I was anticipating a short trip to the other side of town.

Instead, I got stuck in convoy traffic. Basically, convoy traffic is when the police close off all the roads that the President is going to travel on. In Lilongwe, there aren’t very many main roads, so you have a pretty good chance of getting caught in one of these jams every few months or so. You can tell that convoy traffic is going to happen sometime soon, because the city erects big white flagpoles, topped by the Malawian flag, around all the roundabouts on the roads. If you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck in convoy traffic, you will sit on the road for about 15-20 minutes, with impatient drivers occasionally driving up the sidewalks, only to get stopped again by the police once they get to the closest intersection. You might as well relax, turn the engine off, and try to get something done (thank goodness I had tweezers in my bag – my eyebrows were a bit of a mess, after all).

Finally, a virtual Macy’s Day Parade of police cars, black SUVs, and motorcycles whizzes past, sirens and lights a-blaring, and then you can get back on with your day. I counted 14 cars and at least as many motorcycles.

So I thought this was a fairly uncommon occurrence, reserved for official state visits and such, but I asked a friend who works at the embassy and she told me that no – EVERY time the President leaves his house, this is how he travels! Sheesh, talk about high maintenance! Is that how it is in the U.S., too? Isn’t that a little, you know, conspicuous?

And think of how long it would take to get your whole entourage organized every time you just wanted to pop round to the store for something? (“Sorry, Mr. President, you can’t go to dinner tonight – we haven’t erected the flagpoles”!) It’s hard enough getting me, Jorge, and Milo out of the house on time in the mornings. I swear, if I were president, I think I’d only leave my house about once a month. Crazy! I’m hoping my friend is wrong, because the whole logistics of it just boggles my mind.


Shannon said...

I have no idea about the states (never lived in DC) but when we were in Jakarta this happened every time the President or VP went anywhere. It was a royal pain since I always managed to get caught when I was in a hurry or running late.

Dad said...

In 1972 in Kenya we had just this experience and watched Jomo Kenyatta and entourage sweep by.