My goodness, I think I’m still in shock. It’s hard for me to taste things, listening to Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” on the Metro home almost moved me to tears of happiness, and every so often I break out in a hyena-like “Hahahahahaha!!!!!”, exclamation points and all.
It’s definitely P-WHBS: That is, Post-White House Briefing Syndrome. Yes, I got to go to the briefing (and the barbecue press enclosure afterwards) today. For a news junkie like me, that’s like…a hippie going to Woodstock (and not dropping the brown acid. Did me dropping that reference just blow your mind? I thought it might). I mean, I was practically whistling like Charlie Bucket: “I’ve got a White House press pass, I’ve got a White House press pass~!”
After getting in without any problems, I was met on the other side of The Fence by Tommy, who led me past the entrance to the West Wing itself (asdfjkl; insert brain catching fire here) and to the entrance to the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. I bet you hear this a lot, but it is way smaller than it looks on TV. Not so much when you’re sitting in the chairs – then, it looks about right. But when you’re standing and walking around, it seems very small. The whole setup is different from how I’d imagined it. For example, I had never factored in the break room, which has the exact same vending machine that was at my high school, only with better snacks. I ducked into the bathroom to change my shoes (from comfy Tevas to actual grown-up summer shoes with a slight heel – le gasp!) I met many people in the Press Corps, all of them very kind to the obvious newbie, and otherwise tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. And also I hid my face in embarrassment/shame a lot. Usually I don’t do that.
Afterwards, I settled into a seat near Tommy and waited for the briefing. Then I was kicked out of said seat by said seat’s actual occupant. I claimed a seat a few rows back and was undisturbed come briefing time. I’d been nervous – twitchy, sweaty, hyperventilate-y nervous – but that stopped when I realized that this was pretty much exactly like high school, only minus the grades, and people actually wanted to get called on. I was cool like cucumber after that…except I still didn’t try for a question. God, I would have freaked right out, and said something stupid about North Korea and coconuts and Half-Life 2. On live television. Which would have then been transcribed. And made fun of by every pundit from Miami to Fairbanks.
But perhaps I am being harsh.
After the briefing, we stuck around inside for a bit because of the unprecedented photo ops re: podium. And also the discovered Purell dispenser. Then we headed outside to find some barbecue being grilled, thinking that last call for the open press event on the South Lawn (the aforementioned barbecue, but this I did not know) was then. It wasn’t. It was pre-set for TV. So we were marched through the Palm Room and down onto the South Lawn and back behind the briefing room area. It was very hot, so we went back inside. Last call! No, wait, false alarm, it was pushed back to 4:00. Okay, the real last call now. Tromp, tromp, tromp.
It is worth noting at this point that every time we went to and fro, I could see the Oval Office, which further caused my dork-brain to spontaneously combust. Tommy and I managed to stake out a decent spot in the loosely-defined press enclosure, getting some decent-to-good shots of Peter Orszag, DMC, Tony Hawk, the Podium-on-a-Stick, etc. When the President and VP came out, he skedaddled to the other side to see if he could get better pictures. And I learned one of the basic principles of photography today:
Sun + white shirts = MASSIVE LIGHT SENSOR OVERLOAD. I have a few pictures that make people look like they are glowing. After the remarks, I headed over to the other side, since the President was chatting with each mentor group of young men. (Why only young men? Fatherless girls need mentoring too!) Picture jackpot! Also, more importantly, President Obama walked right by the press enclosure. It was at this point that I became aware of Secret Service agents looming behind me like looming things. Probably because I look the way I look (read: ambiguously Middle-Eastern) and was taking copious pictures of, like, everything (because it’s the bleeding White House and I am there, that is why). But this is life for me, so I am used to it and the weird, cautious looks I get at airports. I had already been told off for being a shutterbug earlier, but this was an open press event, so…yeah. Not much to be done there.
Afterwards, Biden came and sat with the group I was standing by for about ten or fifteen minutes. I was literally close enough to have reached out and touched him, if I had wanted to get my ass kicked by the Secret Service. (Dear Secret Service: I don’t.) Actually, an ass-kicking would probably be putting it mildly. Digression over! He finally “noticed” the press behind him, faked surprise, and gave us a great big Joe-smile. Yay camera!
That was pretty much the end of it. I had to go back and do some non-bloggy work, so I bid adieu to the White House…for now. Otherwise I probably would have stayed until they kicked me out. Got to do that again before I go to college!
As promised, a photo gallery! None of this has been run through Photoshop yet, so expect variable quality. Sorry.