‘Passing moments’


Dear Editor:

Someday, we will all receive the notice “Your subscription has expired,” the only thing is that we won’t be reading it, as in the front pages of the o.p. as one of our final expenses (they charge for each word) there will be notice of our passing, many times surrounded by our beloved family, that we have departed into that great beyond. Another view there was the film character as played by Hugh Grant, who being told that if he didn’t mend his ways, he would die alone and his reply, “If I am fortunate, yes.”

Sometimes passing moments avoided can offer another view. My father was residing in an assisted living situation, prior to our family returning to West Virginia and one of the weekly entertainments was a traveling group, “Der Alta Kameraden” (Old Friends) who regaled the aging audience with songs and dances. One of the leder hosen performers asked the audience if anyone had ever been to Germany and had they not been impressed at how friendly the people were. My father raised his hand and told the audience how in the 1940’s, he and a group of men had gone to Germany and the locals had tried to kill them, adding he did get a souvenir – a “Purple Heart.”

That is one story, although it was often said that on Capitol Hill, you could be struck by lighting when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the following story was a perfect illustration.

“The Private had been assigned to the crosswalk on the East Front of the US Capitol for a great many years and his area or responsibility included keeping an eye of the House and Senate parking assignments, on the East Front, most of which were reserved for staff and the working press. On those occasions of special situations, for example the death of a Member or other important personage, when there would be transportation motorcades, it was his responsibility to coordinate the ins and outs with no confusion. Over the years, he had made it a point to know that certain members of the Congress did have special needs or likes, especially dislikes. Members of the same party didn’t always want to share transportation with another member and to another degree, some may have an odor on their breath, offensive to another who was “tea total.” He had made it a point to keep track of the “little” things and one could say that his organized effort was smooth in its handling.

On this fateful day, as the final vehicles of the motorcade were leaving for Andrews AFB, he was directed to accompany vehicles as to handle the return of the Members back to Capitol Hill. At Andrews AFB as he was later to begin the return of vehicle loading, he was told in no uncertain terms that being on a Military Base, he had no authority and the departure motorcade would be handled by the Military Police. Simply put, chaos prevailed. Senior Members used to being accorded certain privileges found themselves be jostled in a crowd of newly elected scrambling for seats. Party opposites found themselves sitting next to each other, all in all not a pretty sight and when they made it back to Capitol Hill, many made it their priority to call the Capitol Police Chief and complain about what had happened, demanding whoever responsible be fired or disciplined to the nth degree and certain never to be seen again or he, the Chief, might be next to feel their wrath.

The following day, to the surprise of everyone standing roll call, there was a new officer assigned to “Crosswalk-East Front” –  the word then spreading that the long time holder of that post had been transferred to the midnight shift, lower garage. He was never told the reason.

“Without a cloud in the sky…”

Jack D. Ballard