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Important Sightings

If last week was my week filled with bad luck (see previous post) then I suppose this week more than made up for it.

People often ask if I’ve managed to see anyone famous while in Washington. I have always laughed off the question, answering “no,” and thinking the answer won’t change. It’s kind of like when out-of-staters (from California) ask if you’ve seen any movie stars when you say you live in L.A.

But my skeptical self was silenced this week when I happened to see not just one, but two famous folks.

On Sunday morning, some fellow interns and I staked out one of the Sunday morning shows that host important politicians and other figures. My team decided to hit up Fox News’ D.C. bureau, where Jesse Jackson and some politicians were scheduled to talk. The plan? Pepper them with questions before they hopped inside their shiny black cars. Not my idea, mind you.

Feeling much more like a paparazzo than a journalist with my Canon SLR camera, notepad and pen in hand, I waited outside the studio with my two teammates in the 90-something degree weather (plus humidity). I felt like the by-the-books journalist within me was undermined, and with it, the whole profession. This was so not cool.

But our efforts were soon rewarded in the form of Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and very likely presidential candidate. He stepped out of the building about 20 minutes before the show was supposed to end. It was a good thing I insisted on getting there early.

Rather awkwardly, we approached him with our journalistic gear in tow. “Mr. Gingrich?” probed one of my teammates. It was definitely him. I haven’t felt that flustered in I don’t know how long. Here, standing right in front of us with no one else around but his two assistants was one of the most influential figures in Washington. We asked him about the upcoming midterm elections, but, in our shock, completely forgot to ask him about his potential run for presidency. Opportunity missed. At least we got photos to prove it. That was Sunday.

On Friday night, my roommate and I decided to catch “Toy Story 3.” It had been a fairly grueling week for both of us at work, and we decided a lighthearted children’s film was just what the doctor ordered. The film, of course, was adorable. As we walked towards our favorite frozen yogurt shop afterwards to stuff ourselves silly, we discovered that part of the sidewalk was blocked by policemen. Puzzled, we crossed the street to join the growing mass of pedestrians gathered there. Like any human being with a speck of curiosity would do, we asked what was happening. “Obama is coming!” a couple people sputtered excitedly.

This was certainly unexpected. We’d seen his helicopter fly overhead before, and even glimpsed his motorcade from a distance. But this was a chance to see the president of the United States in person.

Earlier in the week, I sent a Happy Birthday e-mail to the president — not because I’m his number one fan, but because we happen to share the same birthday, August 4. He and I are exactly 30 years apart.

Now there I was, observing a large gathering of people through the window of a café directly above the Spy Museum. Obama must have been in there somewhere. Following my roommate’s gestures, my eyes widened to see two snipers situated atop the building. They didn’t take security lightly around there.

Some people around us had been waiting an hour already. Did we really have that much patience? Thankfully, we didn’t have to. About 10 minutes after we arrived, the crowd, now larger than ever, got suddenly restless. “Obama!” I heard people shout.

He was coming out.

Luckily, I had lugged my bulky Canon along with me again that day — just in case. It was one of those days when my trait of being overly prepared came in handy.

It was a bit of a blur. Men in black suits started walking out of the building. People screamed. Dark vehicles started zooming down the street. The one definitive moment came when a man’s head peeped out from above one of the cars. It was the long-awaited president of the United States. He waved, sending a chaotic round of cheers and shouts from onlookers. I must admit that I couldn’t quite contain my excitement, either. Then, he hopped into one of the dark vehicles and whizzed away.

My roommate and I were in a bit of a stupor as we walked to Frozen Yo. Whether you agree with Obama’s politics or not, he’s still arguably the most influential man alive. Lucky night. Lucky week. Perhaps I should share some of my birthday cupcakes with him.

I know there won’t be nearly as much fanfare when I hop on my flight back home to California at the end of this week.

Weeks down: 9
Weeks to go: 1

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