Culture, Friendship, Humor

Shove Over, POTUS! I Get the Window Seat!

Honestly, sometimes these posts just write themselves.

There’s a report today (I think it originated in the Daily Mail) that Harry and Meghan were swiftly sent packing (see what I did there) when they suggested they should accompany Joe and Jill Biden back to the United States on–you guessed it–Air Force One, after the late Queen’s funeral last year.

As far as I can see, the White House has neither confirmed nor denied the story, but–unless the Daily Mail is hoping to be on the receiving end of yet another lawsuit courtesy of the litigious pair–one does wonder if it has some legs.  It certainly could be true, given what we’ve seen of their behavior over the past few years.

But it wasn’t Harry and Meghan’s story that tickled me when I read about it early today; it was my own.

You see, I once knew someone who tried a very similar thing…

Once upon a time (almost five years ago actually) my late husband and I were expecting a guest to stay for a few days, the main purpose of his visit being to pick up his car and several boxes of possessions that we’d been babysitting for him for the previous eight months while he was out of the country.

After several short-haul “Space-A” flights from West to East across the United States, he ended up, mid-morning, at Joint Base Andrews, which is only about 275 miles from me, and also happens to be the home base for Air Force One.

We were communicating via text, and I suggested a bus, which would have got him into Pittsburgh about 6PM, or a train, which would have arrived about 7PM.  Both modes of transportation run often from several locations in the DC Area to Pittsburgh, and are relatively inexpensive.  Both would have required my driving about an hour to Pittsburgh to pick him up, and an hour back home; something I was happy to do.

Frankly, though, and fond as I was of my friend, I’d have preferred to make the journey at a decent hour, in something approaching daylight, since both the bus and train stations in Pittsburgh are in a rather seedy area, and I would be driving by myself, as my husband was suffering from the late stages of dementia at the time.

Suddenly, our rather chatty text session ended abruptly, and radio silence ensued for several hours, during which I had no idea if my friend was on a bus, on a train, hitchhiking, lost, or if someone had stuffed him into the trunk of a car, driven him down the road, and chucked him into the Potomac.

Finally, I got a text that he was taking a train, and that it would be arriving at the Amtrak station in Pittsburgh somewhere beween zero-dark-thirty and 1AM.  And so, at about midnight, on a dark and chilly night, I set out.

All went well, the train arrived, he was on it, I wasn’t mugged–or worse–at the station, and we got home about 2:30 in the morning.

On the way, I got the story.  And discovered where my friend had been during his wireless blackout.

That was the day (it must have been October 30, 2018) that Donald Trump was flying to Pittsburgh to attend the funerals of those killed at the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue a few days earlier.  And my friend had spent the time while he was MIA trying to talk his way onto Air Force One, a trip of which he felt entirely deserving owing to his status as a combat veteran. (Just as I’m pretty sure Meghan would have felt entirely deserving owing to her status as the wife of a prince of the blood a Hollywood celebrity.)

Knowing him as I do, I can only imagine the chaos and frustration that must have ensued among the Secret Service and other airport and security staff who, at first, let’s be clear would have had no idea who this interloper was or why he was attempting to elbow his way onto the plane when it was undertaking what must have been a very somber journey.  Perhaps the little event morphed into back-slapping familiarity and eventual hilarity as time went on, but–long story short–he wasn’t allowed on the plane with the President (who arrived in Pittsburgh at about 4:45PM), and–at some point–he had to find another way to get within striking distance of me and mine, and his “stuff.”

Hence my eventual trip into Pittsburgh to pick him up in the wee hours of the morning.

It’s a story which gets (slightly) more amusing the further away from it that I get.  I guess you had to be there.  And it’s probably helpful if you know the players.  Not messing.

However, I have no shame in confessing to a mild case of irritation at the time that my friend–for whom I’d done quite a few favors (of which this was just the latest), some of them rather substantial over the previous several years–gave no thought to inconveniencing me because he wanted to indulge in an ego-boosting exercise which would result in a good story of his own, and for which he was happy to have me stay up most of the night, and drive alone in the dark through Pittsburgh’s red-light district to accommodate his belated and unilateral decision and (not for the first time) bail him out.

I really don’t know what–other than perhaps extreme narcissism and an over-developed sense of entitlement–prompts people to try these kinds of stunts.  Or how or why it is that they apparently either don’t realize, or don’t care (perhaps I repeat myself) how self-absorbed and inconsiderate they appear to others with whom they may have relationships or who are in their orbit.

But after hearing the story about Harry and Meghan today, I find myself wondering:

Exactly how often do people–private citizens–who have no involvement in what’s going on, and who have no business being there, try to invite themselves onto Air Force One for the ride and the prestige.  Is it an actual “thing?”

Perhaps it happens a lot more often than I thought.


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