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How Joe Biden Ruined My Wednesday

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010, to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

When did political photo ops become important enough to shut down a city?

Last week, I woke up with pinkeye. It was not glamorous. I trudged to the bathroom and stared in the mirror, disgruntled. Then I wiped off my red, crusty eye, threw out my contacts, grabbed my glasses, and made an appointment with my doctor.

Not a huge tragedy, I’ll admit. But this was all before Joe Biden showed up.

My doctor’s office happens to be on a major road in Austin, Texas. But when I pulled up to the road, which is four lanes wide, it was completely blocked by at least four police cars. Weird, right? Thinking it was an accident, I turned and tried a back way.

Blocked. Four more police cars, lights quietly flickering. I tried again, cutting through a strip mall—and that’s when I truly beheld the somewhat disquieting power of the police state. The entire road, as far as the eye could see, was completely closed. Businesses were blocked. Doctors were blocked. Schools were blocked. A helicopter hovered above.

I stepped out of the car, heading for the nearest police officer, who was apparently giving another blockaded woman some rather annoying news. “It’s Joe Biden,” my fellow trapped citizen informed me, as the policeman—I’ll call him Officer Barricade—toyed with his walkie talkie. “And they don’t even know how long the road will be blocked.” Biden, it turns out, was in town to visit a domestic violence hotline, and he apparently didn’t mind wreaking a little traffic havoc along the way.

“I have an appointment with my doctor,” I said to Officer Barricade. “Do you know when the road will open up? Do you know when Biden’s supposed to come through?” The policeman shrugged. “Who does he think he is, THE KING?” I asked. That was when Officer Barricade, very politely, asked me to get back in my car.

Did I mention my hair was also unwashed? And that I was wearing yoga pants with some of my son’s breakfast cereal crusted to the knee?

I walked back, chagrined, with my new stranded friend. “I have to pick up my son from school,” she told me, anxious, checking her watch. “What do they expect us to do?” I turned, nodding, feeling the camaraderie. We were fellow victims. We were simpatico. We locked eyes. And that’s when she slowly backed away in horror, clawing her way into her car like Extra Number Twelve in a low-budget zombie movie. Ah, yes. My pinkeye. Did I mention my hair was also unwashed? And that I was wearing yoga pants with some of my son’s breakfast cereal crusted to the knee? There. I just did. I don’t blame you for running, lady, I really don’t.

“Oh, boo hoo,” you may be thinking at this point. “So you’re little late for your appointment.” OK, fair enough. But what about the person who had to get medicine for their feverish child? What about the person who got a frantic call from their elderly grandmother who turned on the stove and couldn’t turn it off? What about the unemployed person on their way to a hugely important job interview? Too bad, folks: “public servant” Joe Biden, the man Clint Eastwood aptly described as “just kind of a grin with a body behind it,” needs to get his armored battalion to a crucial, mission-critical…photo op.

Joe Biden needs to get his armored battalion to a crucial, mission-critical…photo op.

By my estimation, there were at least a dozen taxpayer-funded police cars lined up, waiting…and waiting…and waiting…for this very important man. (So important, apparently, that he was reportedly almost booted from the 2012 presidential team.) If you had decided to rob a bank at that very moment, or steal a bunch of candy from a bunch of babies, odds are you might be the luckiest felon on earth. Hey, now that I think about it, remind me to steal a few hubcaps next time Joe Biden is in town! (Do people even do that any more? A criminal mastermind I’m not.)

The V.P.’s motorcade, it should be noted, has been in trouble before. In the first two years of his vice presidency, Biden’s limo/police/commando brigade was reportedly involved in at least five crashes. One of the accidents killed a Maryland pedestrian. Another crash occurred on the way to another highly critical engagement—a visit to Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Biden didn’t mention the crash on air, as Forbes reported at the time, but “he did joke that having the roads cleared for him was a big perk. ‘Hell, I’ve never driven in New York with no traffic before,’ he told Mr. Stewart.” Wow. It sure was nice of all those New Yorkers to cancel their plans, engagements, emergencies, and lives in general for Mr. Biden’s TV appearance!

People in D.C., of course, are used to this nonsense. Many have come to accept politicians as “important.” They regularly watch elected officials abusing power, plowing through the streets of Washington like giant, deranged Stay Puft Marshmallow Men, wallowing in your hard-earned money. And it’s not just the politicians, either: Interestingly, our friend Biden’s cute but apparently feisty niece recently made national news for brawling with her New York roommate, taking a swing at cops, and then, upon her arrest, pulling the most classic, endearing routine of all: “Do you know who I am?”

Joe Biden’s Austin motorcade fiasco is a perfect symbol of our out-of-control federal government: it’s annoying, expensive, wasteful, and it’s constantly getting in your way. If you want to build a non-favored business, it will slap you with taxes and regulations. If you want to send your kid to a school outside of your zip code, good luck! If you like your doctor and your insurance plan, well, then, you can keep your doctor and your insurance plan. Ok, I’m just kidding about that last one.

Joe Biden’s motorcade is a perfect symbol of our out-of-control federal government: it’s annoying, expensive, wasteful, and it’s constantly getting in your way.

I understand that the vice president of the United States needs security. Others, however, aren’t so charitable. One particularly punchy commenter on the Austin American-Statesman’s website offered that the “secret service should only be able to carry a shotgun to protect Joe – he was very clear that was all anyone ever needs for protection.” But in a time of budget crisis—and if venturing out into the wild American hinterlands is really so dangerous for a glorious luminary like Joe Biden—do we really need the vice president blocking our roads and gallivanting all over the country, just to take photos with a few genial, well-intentioned middle-aged ladies laughing at his questionably funny jokes?

When your government can capriciously shut down roads just for propaganda purposes, perhaps it’s time to rethink the role of our elected officials in Washington, D.C. It’s clear that I’m not the only one who is a bit piqued with all of this: According to a recent NBC/WSJ poll, 60 percent of Americans want every single member of Congress fired and replaced. That’s the highest ever response to that question in the history of the poll. We’ll see how it plays out in the voting booths.

Here’s the good news: Thanks to Joe Biden, everyone else in Austin was apparently also late for their respective appointments, so when I finally showed up to the doctor, about forty-five minutes late, I didn’t have to wait very long. “How’s it going?” asked the receptionist when I checked in.

“I’m really annoyed with Joe Biden,” I answered.

She shook her head. “I know. Dude should just go home.”

But, of course, he didn’t. Four hours later, when my husband was late, due to come home with pizza for three starving boys under the age of six—“Where’s the pizza? Is the pizza truck here yet? Oh, Daddy’s bringing it? Where’s Daddy? I’m so hungry for pizza! The baby is eating the crayons! Why are you drinking straight out of that big bottle?”—I received a phone call.

“Yeah, so I have the pizza, but I’m stuck. Horrible traffic…I think they’ve shut down the road. It might be another half hour.” He paused for a second and added, “Did you know Joe Biden’s in town?”

Indeed I did. Oh, indeed I did.

Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin, TX. Sign up to receive her columns at

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