President meets and greets in Cedar Rapids

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Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 10:21 am


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Around 10:12 am, Obama left Riley's, the Cedar Rapids diner where he had breakfast, and turned to his right to shake hands with the group that awaited him. He was greeted by smiles and handshakes and an occasional iPhone snapshot. He appeared to joke with the locals and spent a couple of minutes talking to a young boy, then moved on to shake hands with all who were close by.

One of them was Emi Chapman, a cancer care coordinator at st. Luke's, and a mother of two, who came with a couple of nurses.

Chapman had just come to work after dropping her 10- and 13-year olds to school for the first day of classes. She said she was surprised to see the president's detail and later the president himself at her favorite diner.

"I don't care what your political affiliation is," she said, referring to seeing the president in person, a first-time experience for her. "It's the experience of a lifetime."

She described herself as a registered voter, but declined to state her own preferences. She also noted that the most important issue for her in this election is healthcare, but stopped short of commenting on her perspective on Obamacare.

Asked whether she thought the president had a nice breakfast, she quipped:

"It had to have been. The food there is to die for. The people there know your name as you walk in."

Chapman said that since she was the only one among her co - workers to have her cell phone on her, and therefore the only one able to snap a picture of this unexpected and brief encounter with the commander-in-chief, her friends expect on her to share the memorable photo with them.

"I can't wait to tell my kids about it, " she said.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The bus traveled southeast on First Avenue and was greeted by occasional clusters of people who stood by their cars in a couple of parking lots, in the grassy area by the road to wave or take pictures with their cell phones. Several mechanics at a car shop on First Avenue also waved as the bus went by.

Around 9:27 am the pool stopped by Riley's, a neighborhood eatery known for its home cooked food and the favorite hangout of many of the nurses in the nearby st. Luke's Hospital.

The eatery sported a London-made clock over the door, the long hands of which had stopped at 5:29 in Roman numerals . The two lights on either side of the door were still on despite the bright sun and flashing welcome signs in the window, including a paper sign telling customers they can seat themselves, contributed to the neighborhood feel of the place, which sits next to an Irish bar called Moose McDuffy's.

Inside the vintage decor reflected the same feel.

President Obama sat at a table with three people, his shirt sleeves rolled up, relaxed and smiling.

He ordered two eggs, hash browns, fruit and OJ and appeared to joke with the young waitress in a Riley's T-shirt who took his order.

"Don't mind these people," Obama said, turning to the people sitting across from him. "Try to enjoy your breakfast."

All laughed, including a man in a red shirt who sat at the next table and appeared to use his cell phone to catch snippets of the conversation the president was having with his table companions.

The president's visit was a surprise for John and Diane Hohnstein, who frequent the eatery.

"We thought it was joke when they said they wd have to scan us."

In the meantime a group of about 50 spectators gathered outside Riley's with eyes and ears and cells trained at the door behind which the president was having his breakfast.

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