My life in DC is a perk-filled one. In fact, one of my favorite things about my new job as an Admissions Counselor at American University is selling prospective students and their families on all that is available to residents of the District- access to the museums and monuments, world class concerts (I saw the National Symphony Orchestra FOR FREE last week at the Kennedy Center), a wealth of excited, well-educated young professionals and the recent emergence of brunch as a national hobby. And as my college friend Katie pointed out to me this past weekend, there are generally a lot of important people around here that are somewhat accessible.
That being said, the members of the First Family aren’t your typical celebrities so when I found out that Michelle Obama was having a book signing at a local independent bookstore, I couldn’t wait to sign up. I read the email three times, called my parents, and hustled over to my bosses office where a number of Admissions Ambassadors were gathered for an informal meeting.
“Guys, did you hear that Michelle Obama is going to be at Politics and Prose on Tuesday?!?” I could barely contain my excited energy.
“Yeah, I heard that. Did you get your ticket already?” asked my boss as the Ambassadors continued their meeting.
“Ticket? Nah, no tickets. You just show up and get a wrist band and then go back for the book signing at noon! Do you mind if I’m out of the office next week for a few hours?”
“Nope, don’t mind at all, but I’m pretty sure there’s a pre-screening or book purchase or something you have to do,” she said.
One of the Ambassadors that I’d gotten to know chimed in. “Yeah Anna Claire, the First Lady has come to campus a few times, there’s definitely a step you’d have to take before just showing up,” he noted.
So I thanked them and went back to my office where I reread the email, and then reread it again just in case I was missing something about tickets. Nope, there’s just a limited number of wristbands and they start giving them out at 9am on Tuesday morning.
The rest of the week and the weekend flew by with the typical grace of a DC weekend and I couldn’t wait to show off my new home to my visiting friend, Katie. It was during our leisurely picnic on the National Mall that I told her I was going to see Michelle Obama.
“How did you get a ticket?” she asked.
“Oh it was so easy, I just have to show up!”
“Really? That’s surprising… are you sure?” she asked skeptically.
“Oh yeah, double and triple checked it. We are all good.”
So we went on our way, I continued to tell a dozen other people about my impending best friendship with the FLOTUS, and I woke up early this morning just itching to get in line at the bookstore by 8. It wasn’t until I had been standing in line for about 20 minutes that it started to rain, but with only 30 people in front of me- and nearly 400 behind me- I wasn’t too concerned. I called my mom, I read my book, I witnessed three different news crews interview the same group of middle-aged women, and the rain just kept falling on the ever-expanding line. And I genuinely thought to myself “heck yeah! First 30 people are BOUND to get in, must suck to be those suckers at the end of the line!”
And that’s when I noticed that the Secret Service had clipboards and all the people ahead of me were handing over a white piece of paper as the Secret Service highlighted something on their clipboard. The rain was really coming down now, so those in line had their heads down to protect their faces and I couldn’t ask anyone around me what these white papers were.
Finally, after an hour and a half, the Secret Service got to me.
“Your receipt, ticket and identification, ma’am?”
“Hiiii, how are youuuu, happy Tuesday!”
“You too, ma’am. Receipt, ticket and identification?”
“I’m sorry, but huh?”
“Ma’am, you had to purchase Mrs. Obama’s book here on Thursday and receive a ticket then show us your receipt to see her today. It was then that we would have collected your Social Security Number and run a background check to allow you to stand in line and receive a wristband after seeing your proof of identification. Is this not the process you went through?”
“Sooo… not exactly. I HAVE waited in line in the rain for about an hour and a half though, and I intend to purchase a book when I get in, but yeah… hang on” I said as I fumbled through my purse with wet hands, trying to find the email proof that I was doing EXACTLY what they had told me. Let me point out that these two people were very patient, which is saying something considering the number of people they had to check in while standing in the rain and dealing with people like me.
“See! Right here it says ‘A limited number of wristbands will be given out on a first come, first serve basis on Tuesday, May 7. An in-person security check will be taken at that time’… so that’s okay, right?” I asked hopefully.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but please read on to the next line.”
And right there, as clear as day, just like everyone had told me, the email clearly stated that yes, I did have purchase her book in person the previous Thursday and have a background screening. HOW DID I MISS THIS?
So, with a face that was scarlet with embarrassment, I thanked the two men and walked swiftly away from the enormous line of Michelle’s fans to the nearest bus stop. And there, despite having remained almost completely dry for all that time, the first pickup truck I have ever seen in Washington, DC drove by and splashed an ENORMOUS puddle of water up onto the sidewalk… and onto me.
I suppose I just wasn’t meant to meet Michelle today, but as the younger of the two Secret Service men said “don’t worry miss, the Obamas will be here for a few more years. You’re sure to run into the First Lady at some point.” I don’t know if that’s actually true, but with the wonderful way that things have been going here, I’m going to assume that there’s a distinct possibility.