January 21, 2013

Peanuts and Presidents

I've lived and worked in Washington, D.C. politics and federal intelligence for 20 years now.  If it sounds like bragging I don't mean it to be, but I've met just about everyone who believes themselves to be someone.  I've met Representatives, Senators, their big-wig staff, Generals, Directors of Agencies, Secretaries of State, Defense and Homeland Security.  I've also grown up in a family of professional sports, and so I've met a lot of folks there too.  Cool? Yes.  Desensitizing?  Unfortunately - yeah.  I don't really care who you all are anymore, and I really don't care about your bloated sense of self-worth.

Blah blah blah.

So it was rather interesting to me yesterday that I go excited about someone that I very unexpectedly got to meet.

 Last night I flew home from Houston, through Atlanta.  As I boarded the Atlanta flight, which I didn't have a lot of time to make, I ran down the jet way and had to come to a screeching stop as the TSA guys checked my ID, then the Atlanta Police Department checked it, and then - yeah, then - the US Secret Service checked it.  Thankfully I had my credentials on me, so they all acknowledged me and let me go - no stopping.

Odd.  Who was on the plane?  Oh crap - that's right. Inauguration.  It sounds callous, and I'm sorry, but I've lived here a long time now. I could give a rats ass about the inauguration.  I also didn't vote for this guy, so I'm less interested than ever before.  All I wanted to do was get to my seat, and get home. I have the flu, I'd spent 3 days at a great but long business conference, where I'd had to give a presentation and now I hurt everywhere, couldn't breath or swallow, and I was miserable.  So go ahead, check the ID, and just let me on the plane. Pretty Please?

But as I walked on into First Class, it was suddenly quite a hoot to see President Jimmy Carter and his wife right there, surrounded by all the USSS guys. And he was smiling and saying hello to every person who was getting on the plane.  Sadly, perhaps embarrassingly, there were quite a few people - older and younger -who had no idea who he was.  For me though, it was cool.  A President.  Whether I voted for him or not (I was too young) - MY President, this country's President.

I have been VERY graced in my career.  I have met and personally spoken to both President Bush I and President Bush II, and I met Laura Bush as well (loved her, by the way!)  I didn't have to talk to them about work, I actually got to meet them and talk to them about other stuff, as well as thank them for their service, etc.  But seriously - a President, is a President.  The majority of Americans never even come CLOSE to a President.

So to walk by them, and say "good afternoon Mr. President, Mrs. Carter" and have them both acknowledge me, even for a second? So damn cool.

But peeps, it gets better!  When the plane was finally loaded, I'll be damned if that man did not get up (2 Agents in tow of course) and go down the ENTIRE length of that plane and PERSONALLY shake the hand of EVERY soul on it!  He literally said something to EVERY PERSON.  As they got to me, the USSS whispered to him and he looked right at me and said "thank you for your service. I know what you do and I appreciate it".  Of course, all of my seatmates and the people behind me were now VERY interested in me, and there I am, coughing, sneezing, praying to God and all that is holy that I'm not drooling or dripping boogers out of my nose.

But come on. TELL ME THAT ISN'T COOL????????????

He said hello to EVERY person!!! And then he went up and spoke to the pilots and every attendant, and they were all just freaking out and so excited, and I thought "President Carter just created an extraordinary memory for every person on this plane.  These folks will tell their families, their kids, their grandkids, etc."

Kudos, President Carter.  You have my admiration and respect. That was VERY classy.  And you all reading, know darn well that there are a LOT of much LESS important people in this world who would have NEVER done something that like.....

As I got off the plane, I found the guy who had boarded behind me at the beginning. As we were checking IDs, he was asking me about times, when the plane took off, etc.  He also asked if this was the plane to DCA, and I said "yep, but are you supposed to be here? Are you on the right plane?"  In my flu misery, I was trying to be funny.  Bless his heart, he looked at me with big eyes and said "sorry - this is my first flight ever, I'm sort of nervous."

Hell of a first flight, buddy. :)  Hell of a first flight.  Gonna be a bitch to ever surpass that one!

Oh - by the way?  The peanuts were pretty good too.  If you're old enough and you know anything about President Jimmy Carter, I'm hoping you get that reference. :)


Brutalism said...

Okay, I love this story and this is why. I told a very similar version of the same to my young daughter just a week ago. About 15 years ago, when I was traveling a lot for business, Jimmy Carter was on my flight to Atlanta. He did the EXACT SAME THING -- walked the length of the plane, shook the hand, made eye contact with and spoke to EVERY PERSON on the plane. I also was too young to vote for him when he ran for president, but do remember his presidency. And I also know that I will never forget that moment on the plane. Or that he has not changed as a human being in all of this time. He is an impressive guy and I love that this made an impression on you even with all of the other folks you've met. What a cool story. Thanks.

Hilarity in Shoes said...

This made me a little weepy. Class act!

Anonymous said...

Although Carter, like Obama is one of the worst Presidents ever, he was always very friendly. I think Reagan would have walked the plane as well.

Laura Bush, one of the best First Ladies of our time, she has class and intelligence and wasn't too consumed with showing her arm muscles. LOL

I have a six pack of Billy Carter Beer unopened that my father told me would be worth a lot of money someday - ha its worth one dollar.

FoggyDew said...

Great story, thanks for sharing. It's pretty amazing how proximity to a president affects people. When I was working as a reporter down in Texas I worked in the town where President Bush parked AF1 while he was in Crawford. Big deal for a small town paper and I got to cover his comings and goings. One of our interns, who we all loved because she did all the things we hated and did them with a smile on her face, thought it was amazing the president was passing through her hometown. As a treat, and a thank you for all she did, I had her put on the list to cover one of the arrivals. The smile on her face in the picture we took with AF1 in the background was radiant. I'm sure she still looks back on it fondly.