Dinner with the President in Maine!

I’d like to preface this post by telling you that, no, we didn’t vote for Obama. Most of you probably already know I was raised in the south by die-hard Republicans. However, you don’t have to be a Democrat to eat within pea-flinging distance of the current President of the United States.

Our daughter works at a fine dining restaurant on the coast of Maine where’s she has a summer externship. Last week, the owner of the restaurant made a comment about making sure they had up-to-date photo IDs for the employees because Obama was coming to town. Our daughter thought there might be a chance he’d come to that restaurant because it’s a really nice one. We’d had reservations to go to Bar Harbor for a short vacation for a few weeks and, admittedly, we weren’t too happy when we learned last week that Obama and his entourage were coming, which would result in closings, detours, and more. While Obama may have gotten lots of publicity for Bar Harbor last weekend, many of you don’t know that businesses on the closed road (where his hotel was) were essentially out of business for the entire weekend. Companies that offer aerial tours were also upset because the airspace around the island was shut down for the weekend. They, too, lost a weekend of business. The island is bustling for a few weeks during the summer and fall, and is essentially dead for the rest of the year. There are only a few weekends during the summer and early fall to make the majority of a small company’s income for the entire year. So, if you lose one weekend of business there, it can be a huge hit (the airport here alone estimates they lost $112K in fuel sales). Maybe people will remember the president’s trip to Bar Harbor the next time they plan a vacation…or maybe they won’t… There’s a great article on the breakdown of taxpayers’ costs and the loss of revenue by some businesses HERE.

Anyway, on the way to the coast on Saturday, I called the restaurant to get reservations for 7 o’clock. I left a message and they called me back, saying they couldn’t do 7:00. I said, “Okay, how about 8:00?”

She replied, “Um, 8:30 would be better.”

I wasn’t thrilled because I knew Mason (age 4) would be tired but I said okay.

Our daughter got off work at 5:00 and came to the campground. We then left for dinner around 7:45. When we got near her restaurant, we saw flashing lights and about a thousand or more people standing on the sides of the road, on sidewalks and yards, and in parking lots. The parking lot of a chowder house was completely full and our daughter said (sarcastically), “Oh, that’s just GREAT!” She was disappointed because she had fixed the salads and made the homemade whipped cream that day and she wanted to be able to put that she “cooked for a president” on her resume. We dropped her off so she could walk to her restaurant to tell them we were trying to find a parking place (it was already 8:40).

I turned down a side road because the main road was blocked off. That’s when I noticed everybody in the chowder house parking lot had their backs to the chowder house, and were looking at our daughter’s workplace. We knew he was definitely there. We had to park about a quarter mile from the restaurant. Richard is still recovering from his broken leg and he walks with a cane, and with a very bad limp. His ankle swells terribly if he walks too much. While we were walking toward the barricades and police lines, I was getting more and more angry. It was already late. What we were going to do if we couldn’t have dinner there? Why hadn’t the restaurant called to cancel so we could make other plans? Screw the yellow police tape. We had just as much right to be there as the President of the United States and WE HAD RESERVATIONS! So, while holding Max and Mason’s hands, I boldly walked under the yellow police tape. What were they going to do? Shoot me?!

A secret service agent immediately came our way, at a dead run, but I kept walking toward him. He said, “Ma’am, you need to stay behind the line.”

I said, “No, we need to get to the restaurant. We have an 8:30 reservation and our children are hungry.”

He asked for our names, and then told us to wait there. He walked away to call somebody and we waited. He came back all smiles, and pulled out his handheld metal detector. When I realized we were going to get to eat dinner after all, I was no longer angry. He scanned Mason (age 4) first and then Max (age 8). It beeped on Max and they found a Hotwheel in his pocket. I turned to Matt and whispered, “Start taking pictures.” The agent noticed and didn’t mind at all. He was very friendly. When Richard got scanned, the Secret Service Agent asked him what kind of metal was in his leg. We had no idea.

Anyway, after that, he escorted us down the middle of the street, right in front of that huge crowd, to the front door of the restaurant. Now, we had to admit, THAT was cool. 🙂

We stepped into the restaurant and there were a few people in there but we didn’t see Obama. That’s when we noticed our daughter wasn’t there. Remember, we’d dropped her off. Turns out she was stuck behind a police line, too. She finally convinced them she worked there AND had reservations so they passed her off to four agents on the way to the door. She got the VIP treatment, too, and she popped in just a few minutes behind us. They told us they were getting our table ready. There were Secret Service Agents everywhere. The hostess came to get us and they took us to a different dining room, in a different building. It was a pretty small room. A female secret service agent scanned the hostess (we found out later employees had to be scanned each time they entered a different area of the restaurant). I started to give the agent my purse (nobody had scanned or checked that yet) and spread my arms and legs but she said, “It’s okay, ma’am. You’re fine.” Most of the tables in the room were empty. Only three had people at them – one had the restaurant owner and his family/friends, another had a couple our daughter didn’t recognize, and the last one had Obama and his wife. We were given a table about 20 feet away from them, with a clear view. I, of course, whipped out my phone to take pictures (no flash), much to our daughter’s horror. I looked at her and whispered, “I’m taking pictures. Deal with it.” Nobody was looking at me anyway. All eyes were on the Obamas…well, until Mason let out an ear-piercing squawk when Max tried to trade seats with him. That’s when I realized we had the only children in the room. Even the President and First Lady had left their kids back at the hotel. We take our children everywhere we go when traveling, even to fine dining restaurants. Usually they’re angels but sometimes a “squawk” does escape. I glanced at Ali after Mason’s outburst and she had her eyes closed and was rubbing her temples. I suspect she was trying to disappear. It didn’t work. Later, the owner of the restaurant came over to tell us how great Ali is doing at work and how much they enjoy having her there. We beamed with pride!!

About 20 minutes later, the waiter brought the Obamas their check, a photographer was brought in, and most of the people in the room got up for a large group photo The chef came in as well, along with some other employees. Our daughter should have gotten up, too, but we didn’t think about that until later.

I knew when we came in that everybody who was privileged to sit in that room knew someone who knew someone. We only got that table because our daughter works there. (We later found out he had to jump through some hoops to get us a table in there and we were truly honored!) If the Secret Service had known about some of the, um, conservative posts I’ve made online over the past year or so, I guarantee we would not have been sitting there. I also knew if I said anything out loud, our daughter would very likely lose her job. And, of course, the President was just trying to have a nice dinner with his wife and he wasn’t at work so I respected that. So, I bit my lip and played nice, much to the entire family’s relief. You see, I’d been telling Richard all week long all the things I’d need to chat with Obama about if we saw him in Bar Harbor and Richard had been mortified that I’d say something that might result in me being dragged away by the secret service in front of the children. (I’m sure most of you have seen that video of that woman/freelancer/alleged preacher who was picked up and carried away by them.) So, when we sat down, Richard and the children were shooting daggers at me with their eyes, begging me not to say anything and, a bit reluctantly, I sighed sarcastically, and agreed not to do anything to get myself arrested (this time anyway!).

So, like I said, most of the people in the room got up for the photo and we were the only ones on the other side of the room. Before Obama walked out the door, everybody else (who was already standing) started clapping. We weren’t part of the photo so we didn’t feel like we were in that “group.” Subsequently, we weren’t standing and clapping. I honestly didn’t know why people were clapping for him at that moment. He hadn’t made a speech or anything. Maybe it was because he’d cleaned his plate? Left a good tip? I don’t know. It was just…weird. Then again, I’ve never been in the same room as a president before. Maybe that happens every time he leaves an establishment. We had no idea.

Anyway, so we were the only ones not standing and clapping and, when the clapping stopped, he turned toward our table and talked to us directly, saying something generic about us enjoying the rest of our summer. We didn’t respond, shocked, I guess, that he actually addressed us personally. It was a WOW moment. I think we just all shook our heads like dumbfounded puppets. After he left, Max whispered, “I was so afraid he was gonna come over here, Mom!” I guess Max was afraid I might get arrested, too. Heh…

Anyway, our dinner was absolutely outstanding and our daughter learned the next day that the Obamas had eaten salads she’d helped prepare and they’d eaten her homemade whipped cream with dessert. She’s over the moon about the bump her resume just got! 🙂

Oh, one more thing… When we were all getting scanned before dinner, I put my ginormous red purse on the ground. I picked it up later and carried it into the restaurant. Nobody ever scanned my purse, nor looked in it…nor even noticed it, even though it’s large enough to hold two laptops, several toy trains and a few Hotwheels to boot. Maybe they knew exactly who we were before we ever got close to the restaurant (even though nobody asked us for ID). I just thought it was weird that a stranger would be allowed to sit 20 feet from the President of the United States for half an hour without anybody checking a ginormous bag. It seemed like a terrible hole in the security but, then again, maybe Jack Bauer was on duty and they’d already put our images through facial recognition software. Heh…

I have a Masonism for you this week:

“Hugs make boo boos go away.”

Hugs to all!