J is going to turn the big 3-0 in May. In the lead up, she has created a "30 before 30" list. Some things are silly, like sitting in the big green chair in Georgetown and some are admirable, like conquering her fear of snakes at a local Petco. Some are great for her husband, like learning how to cook rack of lamb, while others cause him pain, like doing the 200 situp challenge (why did I agree to join? I turned 30 several years ago!). Some, however, are just plain cool, like taking a tour of the White House. Not the garden tour that we did a while back... we're talking inside.Thanks to a friend who works at OMB (that's the Office of Management and Budget for those outside the Beltway) and also gives White House tours, we were able to get a behind the scenes peek at the West Wing. Cross it off the list!
While we were forbidden from taking pictures inside the West Wing, you already know what it looks like. Is there a DC-based movie or TV show that doesn't re-create the Oval Office? It looks just like that, but brighter. Much brighter. Saying it is well-lit is a massive understatement. Makes you think: maybe that's where John Boehner goes to tan. I kid...
The other thing we noticed about the Oval Office was the bowl of fresh apples on the coffee table. A result of Mrs. Obama's Let's Move initiative perhaps?
In addition to the Oval Office, our tour included a look at the Cabinet room and a whole bunch of doors that lead to very important things: the Press Room, the Situation Room, and the Rose Garden. While soaking in the history and power oozing from the walls, it was important to notice what was literally on the walls. It wasn't surprising, but it was breathtaking to see all of the famous portraits and historical scenes captured in oil. It was like walking through a history text book. This was contrasted by the litany of photographs depicting the public events and tender moments that make up Presidential life.
But the President and all the powerful people who frequent this famous office building are human, so not everything we saw was grand. There was the small kitchen advertising items not unfamiliar to a school cafeteria... and there was the bathroom. A throne for a king; the ultimate seat of power, right? Nope. Everyone who complains about government excess, let me tell you that chances are, the bathroom at your workplace is probably nicer, and almost definitely bigger, than that in the West Wing.
Frankly, it is embarrassing. I can just imagine foreign heads of state using this tiny space. In total, the entire space is probably less than 50 square feet. I understand we're in tight economic times, but can't the most powerful men in the world get a magazine or a toilet paper holder (there was a half used roll sitting on the tank)? I've seen nicer facilities in a McDonald's. Quite the contrast with the awesome stately power of the Oval Office just steps away...
Of all of the things on my 30 before 30 list, I was most excited about the White House tour. For some reason, the White House fascinates me more than any other building in Washington. Perhaps it's the unique combination of living museum and living space.
I was speechless as we walked through the (smaller than I pictured) halls of the West Wing. Imagining all of the important people that have walked these same halls, looking at the collection of art and memorabilia from around the world. I was wide-eyed the whole time.
While other things on my list will have tangible physical benefits (thank you 200 situp challenge), the West Wing Tour will be imprinted in my memory for a lifetime.