Ring the bells—the winner of the "My Boldest Experience" essay contest has been chosen. Behold, a tale of cargo vans and khaki pants by Deadspin reader Cameron B., who is just won a $100 AMEX card. Read and be inspired.
Life's biggest thrills often come unexpectedly. Whether it's a surprise pregnancy test result or a miraculous slide into second base by a bag of bones pinch runner in the playoffs, your fate can be sealed in a split second, and in the best way possible. My unexpected thrill came in the form of a text message from an unknown number during the morning of September 9, 2009 stating, "What are you doing on the 23rd? My cousin works for the White House and needs a motorcade driver for Michelle Obama." Those simple 22-words-depending-on-if-you-count-"rd"-as-its-own-word-or-not would change my life forever.
After replying (still not knowing who the sender was) that yes, I could indeed make myself available on the 23rd (and subsequently prank calling the sender to find out who it was) I had myself a job. My former roommate in Florence, Italy had hooked me up with her cousin who works for the White House as a freelance associate on the Obama Advance Team, and I would be their newest volunteer motorcade driver for the First Lady and her senior staff.
Flash forward to the dawn of September 23, 2009. Dressed in my (friend's) best slacks and (friend's) best shirt, tie and jacket I strolled into the Astoria Waldorf with my girlfriend's Henry Bendel bag packed full of sandwiches, crossword puzzles, and magazines she had prepared for me. Entering the secured, Five Star hotel I was ran through a metal detector and pointed in the direction of the lobby where I could await my superior.
A little after 6:00 am, I was briefed on the itinerary for the day. We would be departing the hotel at approximately 6:30 am for LaGuardia Airport where we would await a presidential jet carrying the First Lady and her staff. I don't know why I expected to be driving a pimped out, black Suburban with flashing lights and nuclear detonators on the sidebars, but this expectation only added to my disappointment as I was handed the keys to a 2003 gray Ford van. It was the kind of van you might expect the crappy hotel your parents booked on your family vacation to send to pick you up at the airport with. "This is it, Mom?" Flashing lights? The hazards would have to do. Nuclear bombs for detonation? The pastrami on rye for lunch would have to do.
With Secret Service in the exact, black Suburbans I wanted to drive leading the way, we set off for the airport. Stoplights weren't an issue, and neither were pedestrians. My van was barricaded by security and we flew through whatever obstacles came our way. "Try and keep up" was the name of the game.
At the airport our vans were "swept" by German shepherds. Mine proved clean despite premature nuclear detonations. As we waited near the entrance of the tarmac for word that the First Lady Of The United States, or FLOTUS to those in the know, the group of Secret Service multiplied. As I loitered outside my van attempting to look as secrety and servicey as I could I began to realize I was the only one not wearing black pants. I felt naked. How am I supposed to know khaki is a faux paux when protecting our country's elite? So my (friend's) best pants aren't the color of Bush's soul, sue me.
After about an hour and a half of dawdling, we finally got the go ahead; the First Lady would be landing soon. Our motorcade had increased to about 15 cars including NYPD patrol cars and SWAT busses, more Secret Service SUVs, and other decoy cars. We got into formation and proceeded to roll out onto the tarmac. I was number four in line, behind the head NYPD police car, the limo for the First Lady, and another Secret Service armed Suburban. As the plane taxied to a safe area of the landing strip we halted in our configuration and waited for the plane to stop. Caught up with all of my excitement I didn't see the car in front of me begin moving and had to be signaled by my passenger and supervisor to "step on it." I instantly panicked and forgot that the car was already on as I slapped the key forward. We all know that disgusting sound that accompanies the embarrassment when this happens; thus making the total score, Self Assurance -1, Cam 0.
The next five minutes were a blur. We drove up alongside the jet and swiftly captured FLOTUS, entering the limo, and her staff, entering my crappy hotel pick up van. Before I knew it, our motorcade of 15 was heading towards Highway 278 and FDR Drive. Destination: the United Nations. The mission of our motorcade was to get FLOTUS and her staff to the UN in the fastest but safest manner. This meant at times revving to 80 mph, and at other times skidding to a stop in gridlocked traffic. I soon realized it would not be an appropriate time to play my favorite highway driving game, "Close One Eye and Move Crap On My Windshield In Circles Around Other Cars' License Plates By Moving My Head." It's a total time killer, but unfortunately takes concentration not available when trying not to slam into the Secret Service SUV in front of you. With the First Lady's senior staff talking about "The O.C." television show and its former actors' eating disorders I tried to weave in and out of the rush hour commuters while maintaining an instructed "safe tailgating" distance from the Suburban in front of me.
The drive only took 22 minutes from the airport to the U.N. but it was easily the most horrifying, stressful, panicking, and utterly awesome adrenaline rush I have ever felt in my life. There were no rules. I honked when I wanted to, I floored the pedal and polluted as much as I could, and I found myself perfecting the "eff you face" I gave when passing boring and normal people on their way to work who dared to get in my way. "Hey, red Mazda. I got FLOTUS up ahead of me and FLOTUS' staff on board so if you wouldn't mind careening off the road and spilling your commuter coffee mug full of chai tea for me I'd appreciate it."
A few senior staff "Oh Shit"s and a couple overturned cones later we had made it to the United Nations in time for Barack's speech on Climate Change.
In return for my services I got to hang out in my crappy hotel pick up van for the next five hours reading magazines and doing crossword puzzles in the garage of the Astoria Waldorf until they decided they didn't need me anymore.
Thank you for all of your entries. Go forth and be bold, like Cam here, and like BlackBerry® Bold™ 9900/9930, the device that gives you all the power you need to boldly go anywhere.