Friday, November 17, 2006

Wet Hair Okay

A frantic phone call pulls me out of my 8am shower -- I'd been at the filing center till 2am working out the kinks in the master schedule, and so had gotten a late start. No introductions, only "Katie, can you be out front in 15 minutes?" Uh, sure... I try to collect myself and not sound dripping wet and half asleep. "Jeans or suit?" I ask. "Suit." "Wet hair okay?" "That should be fine." I throw on one of Sara's suits* and rush out front.

It turns out they need me to ride to the airport with some of the White House press pool; Air Force One is landing soon, and they want to film the President's arrival. My own role in this is unclear to me. Precisely who these people are is unclear to me. I've been given a phone number I'm supposed to call about 10 minutes before we reach the airport. I do so. No one answers.

At the airport, everything is a fight. Having finally located the press entrance to the tarmac, the vietnamese security guard there says that the two press pool members aren't on his list. This is an open press event (i.e., any press member can attend without invitation or reservation), and these people have press credentials. He tells me they should have registered with security a day in advance, and he is absolutely unbending. One of the press pool starts chain smoking while I begin chain phone calling, first the number from before (still no answer), and then every other person I can possibly think of from the State side of things. My cell phone battery is starting to die, and I'm fairly certain the press guy is working on the beginnings of a malignant tumor. I'd like to do something malignant to the security guard (steroids, steroids...).

An hour later some contact at the vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is alerted to our plight, and it's ironed out -- just in time for the landing. Two minutes worth of footage was the end result of all the trouble and negotiation. A seven second clip of Bush waving from the jetway has taken up a good four hours of my morning. On the return drive to the hotel, all I can think about is coffee. Vietnamese coffee is lovely, but I'd have settled for some instant Nescafe out of a boot. I haven't eaten or had my pills; my hands are shaking, and I can't feel my upper back. The press pool tries to get me to tell him the President's schedule. This is where it pays to be an incurable mumbler. I say something unintelligible, then point out a man carrying a whole herd of swine tied (one presumes hog-tied?) to his motorbike. The pigs look to be very relaxed. And also very delicious.

The lull inbetween the return to the hotel and my filing center duties proves to be the most peaceful time I've yet had since APEC started. Everyone's inside or at the airport, rushing about; I sit out by the lake bordering the hotel, reading a book a friend sent me. The Hanoi cityscape across the way is visible through the slight pollution haze. It compliments the coffee well.

*Sara has, in fact, provided my entire wardrobe for this trip. Despite the steroid bloat, my own suits still make me look just a bit too much like David Byrne circa 1984's "Stop Making Sense" to be appropriate for such a high level event. I had planned to take care of this... eventually. Hopefully 'sartorial inadequacy' is not a checkbox on one's EER. We won't even talk about my shoes.

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