I was on a hike the day after Christmas. I was out visiting my mom in Hawaii where she lives on the Kailua (east) side, on the island of Oahu — and, I ran into the president of the United States.
There were at least a dozen Black GMC SUVâ€™s at the entrance to the trail. A taller, built man, with a dark complexion asked if he could pat me down and look inside my backpack. Since I didnâ€™t think he was coming on to me, and I wouldnâ€™t be sending the wrong signals if I said â€œyes,â€ I agreed.
He looked through my bag and gave his wand a quick pass around my body and let me wait in line at the entrance of the trail with all the other hikers that had been â€œclearedâ€. After a few minutes, another set of security officers said we were clear to go, so the group of 40 and myself headed up the trail. A thick-legged women, sweating heavily — most likely by how physically demanding the wait had been for her — said, â€œYou realize that if the person at the top falls, we all go toppling down like bowling pins?â€
â€œThatâ€™s only if the person behind that person just moves out of the way instead of trying to catch them,â€ I replied.
There was a small side trail away from the group, and I decided to run up it and leave the group and the cynical women behind. I made it to the first plain of the trail that had been flattened by years of rushing wind that was created from the currents along the shore, which was gusting at 40 m.p.h. that day after Christmas.
There was another security guard. He asked me if I minded showing him the contents of my backpack and doing a pass with his wand. I again spread my arms and legs and took my phone out of my pocket so it didnâ€™t set off his wand like it had at the entrance of the trail.
â€œI should probably take out my headphones, shouldnâ€™t I?,â€ I asked while simultaneously stating the obvious.
â€œYâ€™all probably donâ€™t take, â€˜I couldnâ€™t hear youâ€™ as an excuse for not shooting someone, do you?â€ The guard shook his head in a matter of fact kind of way, so I took out one the plugs in my ear and was back on my trek. Around the bend of the plain and only fifty feet away, another security guard was busy making his descent down one of the more daunting parts of the trail. I extended my hand for support, and he took it as he made a final leap onto stable ground.
â€œMind if I check your bag sir?â€ he asked more politely than the other two guards before him.
â€œWhy the hell not? I may have picked up a sharp stick in the last 20 seconds.â€ In hindsight, I probably shouldnâ€™t have said this, but he just chuckled as he said the contents of my bag aloud.
â€œTwo water bottles and… a bike lock. Alright, looks good. He may take a picture with you, possibly,â€ was the last thing the guard said before letting me on my way. I found these stops to be a nuisance more than anything, but within a few minutes, I was at the first pillbox. A couple guards were making their descent, and behind them were two small boys and a girl who slipped, but was quickly put back on her feet before she hit the ground by her security detail. Behind her was the First Lady Michelle, who was decked out in an aqua and black Nike workout suit, and too busy looking at her feet to notice me.
Behind her was President Obama, who looked up at me and smiled. Of all the things, I decided to talk about the weather in Colorado compared to Hawaii.
I of course asked for a photo, but Obamaâ€™s response was, â€œIâ€™m sorry, but this is one of the few days I get to spend with my family.â€
I respected him more for that. More than I thought I would. I was spending 11 days with my mom — the longest duration of time weâ€™ve spent together since I started college, which almost makes her feel like a stranger when I do get to see her.
Maybe thatâ€™s possibly why I didnâ€™t geek out as much as I did. Because really, our president just seemed like a guy enjoying time with his family.
Adam Suriel-Gestwicki is a junior English major. He can be reached at email@example.com