One of the pleasures of being California's Deputy Chief of Protocol was the opportunity of meeting important people from foreign lands. One Friday afternoon, I drove to the San Francisco International Airport to welcome the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prem Dhinasulanondha.

Waiting in a remote area of the airport for his plane to park, I learned that rather than go directly to a hotel in San Francisco, the Prime Minster and his group were visiting a Buddhist Shrine in Berkeley. Since I lived on that side of the Bay, I asked one of the Secret Service Officers if I might join the entourage across the bridge and then turn off for home.

I was welcome to join the "parade," albeit at the end of the line, but I must stay with it until it reached its destination. Then I could go home.

When the plane arrived, I went onboard to extend to the Prime Minster the Governor's welcome to California. We talked for a few minutes. When he left to go ashore, he invited me to share his limousine. Regretfully, I couldn't; I had my own car.

The drive to Berkeley was something I'd never imagined. When we entered the freeway at the airport, there were absolutely no automobiles except for those in our group. The Highway Patrol had cleared the freeway. It will be different when we get to the bridge, I thought. After all, it was now 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, the heaviest commute time. We were the only ones on the bridge. I could imagine the muttering of those being held up on their way home.

Of course, we arrived at the Shrine in record time. It was a modest building in a low-income neighborhood. My assignment completed, I was now free to leave; but I couldn't. I was caught up in a jam of parked limousines.

I asked a Berkeley police officer, one of many assigned to support the Secret Service and the Highway Patrol, how I could get my car our of this mess.

His reaction, "How are you going to get out of here? My question is, how in hell did you get in?"

A Secret Serviceman explained the situation. As it turned out, my exit was not all that difficult. By moving five cars, there was room for me to drive up onto the sidewalk. With police as foot escorts, I drove a city block on the sidewalk until I reached a normal street.

I wasn't even late for dinner.