There is this idea here in the District that you are not truly a DC-er (Districter? Colombianite? Washingtonian?) until you have been held up by a motorcade. Seriously, these things happen on the daily, especially in the area where I work because there are always ambassadors or special VIPs coming and going on the street. Tourists get all excited about them, but for the rest of us they are really just a pain in the butt that adds on an additional five minutes (sometimes more) to our carefully planned out commute time.
When you live or work in the nation’s capital, you quickly become familiar with public transportation and the exact amount of time you need to get from Point A to Point B. You know which metro lines are the fastest, which ones to avoid at which time of day, which metro car you should get into in order to be as close as possible to the exit of the station. You learn which buses will take the most direct route to your destination, why you should avoid taxis at all costs, how handy an app like Uber is- and all of these things matter because in DC time is always “of the essence.”
Motorcades screw everyone up.
Seriously. They are the quickest way to undo your best laid commuting plans, and for locals, they are never welcome. Besides, it isn’t like there is a benefit to seeing one; most of those big SUVs are tinted and you can’t see who is inside anyway (which is the point, after all). For the most part, all you are looking at is a long line of motorcycles, cars, SUVs, more cars, and more motorcycles with their lights flashing and their sirens disturbing the peace while you’re on the side of the road wondering how many more motorists they could possibly fit into this gang.
So what is my point to all of this? Well, I have a new idea of what should designate a true
DC-er Washingtonian Colombianite Districter aw, screw it:
You are not a local until you get frisked by the Secret Service.
A little back story:
My office is located right next door to the historic Jefferson Hotel in downtown DC. Since it was built in 1923, it has been a very popular place for the rich, famous, and
criminal political to hob nob with one another. It is a beautiful old building, and the architecture inside is just stunning. I have been in there twice: once to eat lunch and once to have after-work drinks. Both times I was slightly appalled (and mildly impressed) by the prices, but oh-my-goodness is the food good!
President Obama has held and attended a number of events at the Jefferson since assuming his role as POTUS. On Tuesday morning, my colleagues and I were greeted by a cheerful message from our building management kindly informing us that our evening was about to be greatly inconvenienced: the president had an event to attend at the Jefferson, and that meant that security was going to be tightening throughout the day. At various times beginning in the early afternoon, different entrances into our building were going to progressively got locked down. This would all ultimately culminate in the entire block being shut down to traffic (both vehicular and pedestrian) a half hour before POTUS arrived, and remaining closed off until after he left. That meant that if we wanted to leave our building (you know, to go home), we had to go out a back exit and down a separate street.
Now that you have the necessary background information, let me fast-forward you to exactly 10 minutes before Secret Service and the police were set to rule our street. I was still in the building despite the increasing lateness of the hour because I had to make up work time thanks to that stupid snow storm we had the day before. Two of my colleagues had just left for the day, so I was in the office alone when my phone rang. I answered it, surprised to hear one of my co-workers who had just left on the other end of the phone.
Him: “Hi Allana, we want you to come join us at the Jefferson for a drink.”
Me: “Um, you mean that place that where the president is about to be? Um… no thank you.”
Him: “Well, see, [other colleague] left her phone on her desk, so we were wondering if you could come bring it to us?”
Me: “But, I have to leave to catch a train. Can’t I just meet you in the lobby?” (I had no desire to go next door because I didn’t really want to be caught up in the tangle of security)
Him: “Sure. The lobby of the Jefferson, right?”
Me: [Le sigh] “Ok…”
So, I put my coat on, grabbed her phone and jetted downstairs. As I was running through the lobby, I checked with the security desk to make sure that I could still get back into our building after I left it (since all of my things were still upstairs and I hadn’t done my time card for the day yet). She said yes, so I ran outside- and then I quickly stopped running when I realized that maybe that would look mighty suspicious to any observant security forces.
The street was already crawling with police, and right in front of the entrance to our garage was a whole gaggle of Secret Service agents, looking all debonair in their suits and sunglasses. They looked at me curiously as I speed-walked past them and rounded the corner to the hotel entrance. I kept thinking, “there is no possible way they are going to let me just walk right into this hotel. There has to be a cleared list or something.”
I was wrong.
I walked right up to the front door, and the nervous-looking doorman opened it for me. In the entry way a table was set up and five other agents were standing around staring at me. At this point, everyone I have told this story to has asked me, “Were they cute?” And my response has been, and remains: “They were huge and intimidating and scary!!”
I was asked to empty my pockets and lay everything on the table for inspection. The guy gave me a very confused look when I dumped two cellphones and a security access card onto the table with a feeble explanation of, “That’s all I brought,” as I shrugged my shoulders. Another man asked me to step to the side and spread my arms and feet; I had a metal-detector wand run over me, and then was quickly patted down (I assume because I was still in my coat).
After they determined I was not a threat and only a somewhat terrified-looking little girl, they let me enter the hotel.
My co-worker was waiting for me right inside the lobby, standing behind two huge Secret Service agents. They barely parted enough for me to hand the phone between them into my colleague’s hand (seriously, picture me trying to squeeze between these two walls-of-men). He said thanks, and I quipped a quick “You’re welcome!” before I dashed right back out the door I came in, past the entry agents and back outside the hotel before any of them really knew what happened. All of this took like 2 minutes at most, so they must have been confused as to why I went through all of the trouble to be in the building for literally ten seconds.
I really thought that someone was going to come running back after me, but no one did. I mean, really, now that I think about it, it was pretty suspicious that I came in just to basically throw the extra phone I brought at someone and then run back out. Maybe they should have stopped me… I would’ve stopped me.
When I passed back by the group of agents in front of the garage (they were preparing to close it down), they all stopped to look at me and one made eye contact with a look that just screamed, “I’m watching you, crazy lady, I’m watching you.”
Back upstairs, and safely inside my office, I decided it was high time for me to go home.
Looking back on it, it was really the highlight of my day. I mean, guys, I was frisked by Secret Service!! It was way cooler than the TSA.
I feel like a true patriot now :)
As always, Happy Traveling!