This morning we headed off for our tours, informal, yes, but still tours. We took our grandson to visit the White House and the Pentagon, no simple thing in the rather too complicated times we live in. She Who Must Be Obeyed made the arrangements, and succeeded in getting us into the White House; my job was finding the Southeast Gate… easy enough, yet all the way from the Metro Station to the gate, SWMBO wasn’t sure I was going the right way! I’ll admit that if I sit my phone down someplace unusual it will be days before I find it, but when it comes to how you get into the White House, or finding something in downtown DC, I’ve got it covered. Southeast Gate? Easy money: One block west of 15th, one block north of E Street…
When we arrived, I couldn’t help recalling my first trip there back when I was 19. In those days, you went to the Ellipse, and got a ticket from a kiosk with a time on it. Then you took a seat in the bleachers and were entertained with live music until your time came and then walked right in the gate of the White House. Now of course, it’s a little different. SWMBO had to request a date from the White House, and give them our information for background checks, and subject to availability, we were approved. (Because she is from the Pentagon) Then you go to a gate a block away from the actual gate for the first round of security, then proceed to the actual gate for more security… a sad fact of modern life. Of course, no cameras or other electronics are allowed. No backpacks, tobacco products, handbags or purses are allowed… and no food or drink. Cell phones are OK if the are turned off. Not like my first visit! Back then they didn’t really care about anything other than food or drink…
Once inside, we proceeded along pretty much as before, and to my amazement, my grandson seemed fascinated by the portraits of past presidents. OK, I’ll admit that my inner history geek got the better of me, and I pointed out this and that and told stories of events that happened there, some of which I could give a personal memory of… and then on to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon is always a hassle to get into unless you work there. You get to answer questions about why you’re there, show your ID (but not as many times as at the White House) and tell them whether or not your escort is coming to meet you. Eventually you get a badge with your photo on it and then meet up with your escort, who just happened to be SWMBO. She took us u to her office so we could meet her new coworkers, she’s changed offices a few months back, and we met her boss, the Undersecretary of the Air Force. All along the route through Air Force territory, the walls are filled with paintings of aircraft from the earliest days of aviation to the present. There are great Air Force heroes, model airplanes… all the sort of stuff that I really like.
Since I’m married to a military person, I meet lots of military, and I’m always amazed at how friendly they are. Of course there are all sorts of people in any large organization, but the military, at least the ones who have been there for a while, usually strike me not only polite, but genuinely hospitable, much different from the way they are so often portrayed in the media… but then I suppose that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
I asked my grandson which he liked the most, the White House or the Pentagon. He couldn’t say, because he liked them both for different reasons. I doubt that at 10, the history of the White House would really sink in for most kids. It may be that his first taste of all of those uniforms at the Pentagon might have been a bit overwhelming… and what 10-year-old has a clue what an Undersecretary is. Everyone’s friendliness made an impact though… and all those airplane pictures didn’t hurt. I wonder what he will tell his buddies back in Illinois about today, or if he’ll even remember for the next few years, but I suspect the day will come when it sinks in that he walked the halls that most make the news, the halls where greatness has trod.
He was impressed that there is a Taco Bell in the Pentagon, and yes sir, my grandson can say that he’s eaten lunch in the most secure Taco Bell in the world!