A few weeks ago I was making an event for my tour of the white house on my google calender. When you create an event it asks some pretty standard questions. What? Tour of the White House. When? 7:15 am Wednesday, July 22nd. Then is asked me, Where? And I answered: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For some reason this really gets my funny bone, as it comes off as Google Calender needing to be taught the location of the White House. Which is not the case, but pretty funny.
Also currently there is this commercial playing in rotation on NBC about Jay Leno promoting his talk show changing time slots. It shows a young woman being interviewed on the street. She is asked "Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" and she doesn't know! Next, she is asked "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?" and she promptly answerers "Sponge Bob!" Hopefully this is really not that indicative of the state of our nation. And for the record Jay Leno, I know the answer to both of these questions. But there is nothing funny in knowledge I suppose.
Well last wednesday I pulled myself out of bed at the inhumane hour of 6:00 am, a full hour and a half earlier than usual. And I am not a morning person at 7:30, let alone at 6:00. But I popped out of bed with the energy that goes with any special event, and a little nervousness about getting there on time, and finding the visitors entrance. I was not allowed to bring very much with me. Usually I go to work with a pretty good sized purse. Things you can almost always find in my purse include cell phone, i pod, keys, Kleenex, lotion, chap stick, allergy medicine, water bottle, wallet, and whatever book I'm plowing through on the bus. So I'm basically Mary Poppins. This day I was allowed to bring cell phone, keys, wallet, and photo ID. And nothing else. So I took the bus to Farragut with nothing. No purse (which felt really odd) no book, no I Pod, no water, no packed lunch. And it was sort of fun. It felt a little like taking a break from all the things I carry with me, literally and figuratively. I made it to Farragut in good time, but had a little trouble finding the visitors gate, which caused a little anxiety, but I did find it, and didn't miss my tour time. I think I should be sure by now, that if there is the potential for getting lost, I will. Somehow I'm wired with the opposite of a navigational system. But I am getting smarter about asking for help and preparing for the eventuality of being lost and/or confused. One I found the visitors entrance, they had us get in line according to last name, and I got through security pretty quickly. Which is easy when you have only your ID, bus pass, and cell phone in your pocket.
We we touring the east wing. It is a self guided tour, but there are secret service agents(!) in every room to answer questions. I get too shy to ask questions in situations like this. I would love to know more information, but don't really know what to ask, and don't want to ask dumb questions. We got to look at about 9 rooms. Most of them we got to walk through, but about 3 we could only peek into. The rooms themselves are beautifully decorated. They were prepping East Room for an address president Obama was giving later that day and pointed out the long hallway with red carpeting you see on television. And maybe that was the neatest part. Physically standing where Obama would be in just a few hours. Standing where so many presidents, dignitaries, and every day people have stood over the years.
When I studied abroad in England I saw too many castles, palaces, and historic estates to count. By the end of 4 months, all the students in my program have developed what I might call "castle ennui." Everything starts to look and feel the same. Cardiff Castle honestly doesn't feel all that different from Windsor Palace. They are both amazing, but when it comes down to it, all the hundreds of rooms and staircases start to bleed together. I think I feel that way about the White House. It is a beautiful piece of architecture, and lovingly decorated and preserved. We can be proud of the majesty of the White House. But the thing that sticks with me from my time in all the historic places in Britain, is how it felt to stand on Henry VII's tombstone, or to be in the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James I. Not what that room was physically decorated with. And I think thats what I will take from this visit. For 30 minutes of my life, I was inside one of America's most treasured piece of property. And maybe during those 30 minutes, Barack Obama was too.