Wayback Wednesday: Off to an Exciting Start

Eileen (left) and me in the White House press briefing room in 1998.
Eileen (left) and me in the White House press briefing room in 1998.

This week’s picture is almost exactly 13 years old – it’s from just a couple of weeks after I moved to the DC area in the beginning of February 1998. I did not, despite what the photo might suggest, come to town for any kind of lofty position that would land me in the White House briefing room. Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth, given that I arrived unemployed and spent several months sleeping in my sister’s guest room down in Fredericksburg.

Being as I was very new to town and knew almost nobody, Eileen was good about inviting me along when she was doing things with her friends. She went to school in Fredericksburg and had worked in DC for a couple of years at that point, and as a result was fairly plugged in. One night, I joined her at a party somewhere on Capitol Hill, and ended up chatting with a guy who also happened to be from New York. I remember him being pleased to find fellow New Yorkers, and for that reason, he invited us to join him on a White House tour he was giving a few nights later.

(This is not quite as random as it sounds. He was a friend of Michelle – the girl throwing the party, who had been one of Eileen’s college roommates – and she was going on the tour, too. So it was a fairly average friend-of-a-friend situation for my sister, and I just lucked in for being family.)

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was getting the “good” White House tour – the after-hours one with a staffer. The typical tourist visit is the East Wing tour, where all you see is the ceremonial rooms, but the staff tour goes through the West Wing and you get to see all the behind-the-scenes places. In our case, because our guide worked for the National Security Administration Agency, we got to see the Situation Room, which was pretty damn cool – as was the Oval Office, of course. (This was the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and we had a chance to glimpse the entrance to the back hallway that loomed so large in that sordid tale. Icky, yes, but it also made an impressive story for the folks back home.) We also took a pass through the press briefing room – where this photo was taken, and which is so much smaller than it looks on television – and finished up in the Rose Garden.

I’m not gonna lie – it seemed like an extremely glamorous start to my life in DC. I kinda thought that maybe that’s how life was here… that everyone gets randomly invited to the White House all the time. Alas, however, it was not to be. It was more than a decade before I ever made it back there, and, well, I had to stay outside.


Do you have photos from your past that you’re willing to share – and a blog to post them on? Play along with Wayback Wednesday by linking back to this post or sharing in the comments so I can snoop into your past, too!

8 thoughts on “Wayback Wednesday: Off to an Exciting Start

  1. Joanne February 16, 2011 / 10:08 pm

    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. It’s the National Security AGENCY. I told you that! 😀

    • Sarah February 16, 2011 / 10:10 pm

      Damn. You know I’m not a fed and I can’t keep your agencies and administrations and alphabet soup acronyms straight. I’ll fix it.

  2. Eileen February 16, 2011 / 10:22 pm

    Another correction 🙂 Michelle was a friend, but never a roomie.

    Also I am amazed (but not surprised) at how many details you remember…I remember going and being impressed, and scoring dad a box of M&M’s with the presidential seal and Clinton’s signature on it (I think that box of M&M’s lived in Dad’s office til the day he died, yuck!)…I can’t even remember the name of the guy who took us.

    And I’ve never made it back to the White House since…but would love to (I’ve always wanted to go to a state dinner). Btw, do they still do the East Wing tour…I know it went away for a while post-9/11 but is it back? If so, its going on my short list.

    Thanks for this lovely trip down memory lane…I miss DC and the incestuousness of it all 🙂 back in the days when half of my friends were Hill rats.

  3. Jenny February 16, 2011 / 10:31 pm

    Wow! I feel honored – and a bit unlucky – to have been with you on your 2nd trip to the WH. Wishing I had been on the 1st one instead 🙂

  4. Mom February 16, 2011 / 10:37 pm

    Nice memory, indeed ! That box of M&M’s might still be around somewhere. Gotta look 🙂

  5. Common Loon February 17, 2011 / 9:28 am

    Eileen, I like that haircut! I didn’t even remember it (sorry) until this picture got posted.

    Mom – M&M’s are NOT like wine!!!

    • Eileen February 17, 2011 / 9:51 am

      Funny. I was thinking, “yuck” and being grateful that cut was a thing of the past.

  6. Shannon February 17, 2011 / 9:54 am

    How did I never see that picture before?? Bizarre.

    Cool story though.

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