The coolest guy ever to walk into the Regulator was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt, blue jeans and scuffed running shoes. Coming in alone, through the downstairs exit, he was smiling, looking around, and walked with a bounce. Carrying himself with a quiet confidence, he looked like he knew he could single-handedly takeout anybody (and everybody) if he had to. All the suits deferred to him with a nod. The show would not start (and it would later end) when this guy gave the signal.
He was the point man in Jimmy Carter's Secret Service detail.
Throughout the signing, he floated through the store, out on the street, wandering past the huge line. The bomb dogs had already swept through, and there were at least two other layers of plainclothes security keeping eyes on everyone. Sweatshirt guy just smiled and took it all in, weaving in and out of clusters of people.
It was fun having an ex-President in the house. He was friendly with everyone, listened to every story, was especially attentive to the children (one sleepy four year old asked him to sign Good Night Moon.) But watching the lead Secret Security guy at the top of his game was what made it exciting for me. This guy was Neo in real life. He was everywhere and invisible.
Tom had been dealing with daily fax requests for background checks for all out staff. On the day of the event, the waiting lines were closely monitored.
I was covering the line downstairs next to the signing table. My favorite memory from those most intense two hours was standing between the publisher's representative (who was shoveling books as fast as she could to the President, known to be capable of signing 1,000 books an hour) and a Secret Service agent who was watching ( and I mean really watching) the line for curious behavior. Several times people lunged forward toward the signing table, reaching into their jackets. Yipes. The agent would lunge, too, with arms and body blocking the path. Each time the excited customer pulled out a cell phone or camera.
As the time-limited (the President was off to the Magnolia Grill) event was feverishly coming to conclusion, and it was obvious not everyone in line would get a signed book, tensions at the table ratcheted up a few degrees. It was getting kind of tight.
Almost simultaneously, the officials on either side of me heatedly whispered in my ear.
The publisher's rep whipped her head around and hissed, "Speed it up, let's speed it up!"
The Secret Agent, with a firmness of tone from years of being in charge and saving lives, leaned over and said clearly and deliberately, so I understood each word, "Slow it down."
I nodded, "Yes, I will do that" to each person.
And then Neo and the President left the building.