Would you like to hear a story?
It’s about my brief brush with fame. Maybe “scuffle” is a better word than “brush”. Actually, the most accurate choice is probably “chest bump”.
This is the story of the day I accidentally chest bumped former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
In the summer of 2010, Pelosi was still Speaker and I was interning for two congressmen in their Washington, D.C. offices. It was hot, humid, and SO AWESOME.
Reasons People Become Capitol Hill Interns
A) A vested interest in policy making
B) Political ambitions of their own
C) To have a solid entry on their resume
D) Because they want to drink in D.C.
Reasons I Became a Capitol Hill Intern
A) So I could tell stories on tours about Andrew Jackson. (Click on that link if you like awesome things.)
B) WASHINGTON, D.C. IS WHERE THE PRESIDENT LIVES. ALL THE PRESIDENTS LIVED THERE! SO MANY PRESIDENTS! I LOVE THOSE GUYS!
C) Isn’t civic engagement fun?!
This means there were a lot of very hung-over interns running around the Hill all day being ambitious and schmoozing, and then there was me, accidentally standing in the path of Colin Powell’s motorcade on Memorial Day because I was looking at the Smithsonian buildings around me and not listening to the Capitol Police telling me to stand back. FUN TIP: Listen to the Capitol Police. They get angry when you don’t.
After the motorcade incident, I said to myself, “Self, you need to get your act together. Be more aware of your surroundings. You’re going to get someone hurt.”
I didn’t get any cooler over the next few weeks– instead of going out after work I’d go sightseeing and then come home, watch The Daily Show and scream “I work there!” any time they showed footage of the Capitol or members of Congress– but at least I became a little more conscientious of where I was gawking.
Once while I was giving a tour of the Capitol Building, mid-Andrew Jackson anecdote, a Secret Service agent physically pushed my group against the wall while Vice President Biden walked through, and another time a homeless guy spit on my hand out of nowhere, but overall I was getting much better about clearing the way for both policymakers and angry homeless men…
…Until that fateful day.
Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve
1) As an intern, I was responsible for updating a letter about the national debt that the Congressman sent to the Speaker every day and delivering it to the cloakroom behind the House Chamber. It wasn’t a nice letter. If I hadn’t been in charge of that letter, everything would have been fine. When they asked me to do it, I should have said something crazy like, “Well… I’m a girl, which means I’m super bad at math and directions, so you probably don’t want me to do that.” People would totally believe that, right?
2) If I had to be responsible for the letter, I should have taken a few minutes to put it in an envelope, loitered around the office for a second, or stopped to adjust my ID badge. Anything to throw off the weirdly perfect timing I had.
3) When I stepped off the elevator to turn the corner behind the Chamber, I should NOT have been distracted by the attractive Secret Service agent who was coming around the corner. I should NOT have watched him walk by instead of looking where I was going. I should have realized that he was probably escorting someone important, who was probably right behind him. I should have done a lot of things, but it was too late.
The Chest Bump, in Slow Motion
1) As I turned back from the Secret Service agent, I became aware of two more people coming around the corner I was about to turn. It was too late to swerve and avoid them so I just kept going.
2) When they turned the corner, my brain went, “THAT’S NANCY PELOSI!” Then it went, “I HAVE A LETTER FOR HER!” Then it went, “OHHH NOOOOOOO!” And that’s when we hit each other.
3) Pelosi is tiny. I don’t know if her hair or her attitude makes her look bigger on TV, but in real life she’s incredibly petite. I’m not very big either but I was wearing heels that day, which means that when we ran into each other, her face hit my chest. I’m sure we bounced off each other in less than a second, so I’m still not sure why it felt like 30 while I stared down at her head in horror. My brain was still doing the “OHHHHH NOOOOOOO!” thing when she went down.
4) The Secret Service agent was at her side helping her up as soon as she hit the floor. The other person she’d been talking to was sort of waving his arms around, asking if she needed help. I was standing over the Speaker of the House, the person third in line for the presidency, with a very angry letter addressed to her in my hand. I said, “Are you ok?” and reached out to help her up. The Secret Service agent pushed my arm away and blocked her with his body.
5) I panicked and started power-walking away from the situation. It wasn’t my best moment, but I was a little worried about assassination attempt rumors. I spent the whole night calling my family members and telling them about it so they wouldn’t wonder what happened if I mysteriously disappeared.
Luckily, things worked out. I wasn’t arrested for assaulting one of the top policymakers in the country, and I don’t mean to brag, but I was pretty popular in the office and at intern gatherings after that. I do not, however, see much of a future for myself in D.C. At least not until I get better at corners.