With dismal snow conditions and no signs of immediate improvement, I accompanied a friend for a long weekend in Washington D.C. and Boston. While there, an old kayaking buddy arranged a few fantastic tours through his employer that resulted in a) my deliberation of jumping the White House fence and b) leaving my Smith sunglasses on top of the Capitol.
Through my new, appropriately themed book, “In the President’s Secret Service” by Ronald Kessler, I have learned that I am not even close to the first person to have such thoughts. These thoughts are, however, a very bad idea.
At eight-foot-high, the reinforced steel fence surrounding the White House doesn’t look very intimating. While I was waiting in line for the White House tour, I didn’t see a single security guy on the grounds. Of course, the agents are purposefully hidden but my impression was that the property has a rather unguarded appearance. This thinking is, of course, asinine. My book has informed be that agents “…know right away if there’s a fence jumper. There are electronic eyes and ground sensors six feet back [from the sidewalk] that are monitored twenty-four hours a day. They sense movement and weight. Infrared detectors are installed closer to the house. You have audio detectors. Every angle is covered by cameras and recorded.”
And if I had actually jumped the fence? “If somebody jumps that fence, ERT is going to get them right away, either with a dog or just themselves. They’ll give the dog a command, and that dog will knock over a two-hundred-fifty-pound man. It will hit him dead center and take him down. The countersniper guys within the Uniformed Division are always watching their backs.”
As for the lost sunglasses, I grabbed a serendipitously timed spot on a very special dome tour of the Capitol where you must be personally accompanied by a congressman. As I was meeting folks for a cocktail directly afterwards, I wore a semi-formal dress and heels. Let’s call this “bad idea number two”.
The Capitol has 365 steps leading to a balcony at the base of the tholos approximately 210 feet above the Capitol’s east front plaza. This is a lot of steep, narrow stairs. Heels are technically not allowed, but being a climber I’ve worn far worse on far steeper. The entire dome is cast iron and truly a beautiful building in a stunning location with sweeping views of the capital city and its neighboring states. Taking pictures on the balcony outside, I removed my sunglasses and set them down. Oops. With visions of sniper teams descending from helicopters to test my poor sunglasses, my vivid imagination estimates that I may have cost taxpayers $500,000 in tactical assault team and bomb detection charges. My pledge to you, my blog readers, is this: I’ll stay away from Washington for a while. After all, heels aren’t even my style.