The Day the President Came

Sharleen's experience when President Bush visited Reno was an interesting one. Read about the harrowing tale of a little girl who works at a coin shop.

The Day the President Came - Just Another Day at Southgate Coins

July 10, 2004

By Sharleen Flansaas

It was June 18, 2004, exactly one month before my 21st birthday. I was driving to work at about 1:45 in the afternoon. As I approached the light near the street the store I work at is on (I always cleverly take an alternate route to work to cut back time sitting in traffic) I noticed that there was more traffic than usual. Oh yeah, I thought to myself, the President is coming today and people are probably already lining up to get in and see him. I figured that the President would be speaking at around 6:00 in the evening and everyone was there early to get a good parking spot and a good seat. Little did I know that Air Force One was just about to land at Reno/Tahoe International Airport and the heightened security had closed off every street that gave access to the store I work in.

As soon as I realized that the traffic was going to be really thick, I called my boss at Southgate Coins, Marie to let her know that I might be a couple of minutes late (yeah, a couple of minutes). I hadn't yet realized that S. Virginia Street and Kietzke, the streets in front of Southgate Coins, were all blocked off. After I drove down about six different streets to try and get into our shopping center, Coliseum Meadows, I called Marie again and she suggested parking across the street by Borders Bookstore and walking across the street. Although I didn’t want to, I did what she suggested and I walked across the street with no hassle. It took me an extra twenty minutes to get to work that day on top of the fifteen minutes that I spent driving to work in the first place.

We spent the next hour looking out the windows at the front of the store waiting to see the President drive by in his flag adorned limousine with his entourage of Secret Service men and police officers. After we saw the big episode with the limos we saw a few cars driving down S. Virginia St. in front of our store, so Marie thought that it was safe for me to go run some errands like going to the post office and picking up my car across the street. This was a huge mistake. My co-worker, Heather headed up to the post office, Marie went to pick up Rusty's truck at the car wash and I attempted to drive my little Nissan Sentra across the street back to the store. I was sitting at the intersection looking both ways to make sure there was no oncoming traffic and the young police officer at the intersection approached my window. I rolled down my window in the sweltering Reno summer heat to ask to cross the street. When I asked the officer if I could cross he told me that I would have to make a right turn and find another way into the parking lot. I did what the young man said and made a right turn. Unfortunately, that was another bad idea. I spent the next 35 or 40 minutes driving around the block. I drove only about one mile for the better part of an hour.

I finally made it back to the Borders Bookstore parking lot and attempted to ask the police officer for permission yet again to cross the street. Once again he gave me the same answer and then proceeded to tell me "this is a high security situation, Ma'am." This time I wasn't going to be messed with. I asked him "what kind of threat do you think I am to the President, especially since I saw him leave already and I am sure that he is 30,000 feet in the air by now?" He told me once again that I had to make a right turn and that I couldn't cross the street. I put my car in reverse and parked it sideways, so I could block the traffic behind me. I rolled down all of my windows, and I turned up my music really loud. This was not the end of it.

Using a high-pitched sort of squeal, I screamed as loud as I could at the top of my lungs until my voice was cracking. This is not the sort of thing that I would normally do except the police officers of the greater Reno area had already cost me and my company valuable time and money because one young, rookie cop was trying to act like a big shot.

The officer was so surprised that such a small, innocent looking girl could act so irrationally. He told me, "Ma'am, you need to calm down." All I could do was tear out as fast as I could and make a right turn like the young, rookie cop asked me to do. As soon as I made it 200 yards down the street to the light at South McCarran Blvd., the cops down there had just pulled all of the roadblocks off the street and I flipped a U-ee at the light and drove into the parking lot where the store is.

I was so frustrated to return to work and hear Marie tell me that she had just driven across the street with no difficulty at all. There is something to be said about rookie cops that are trying to act like big shots in Reno. This is not the first time an employee of Southgate Coins has run into this obstacle. Maybe that show Reno 911 on Comedy Central is an accurate description of how the "Protectors of the Law" actually protect the civilians in Reno.