Taking tea with the President

Number 1 in a series of 1. Probably, anyway.

A nice piece by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic descibing the day that he was in a cafe in er… America (he doesn’t say exactly where he was), when he was joined by the President. Of the country. The big cheese, le grand fromage, die grootste kaas [That’s enough cheese now – Ed.].

I had been there for a few hours when youthful, vigorous men and women wearing Business Semi-Formal started quietly going one by one among the customers sitting near me. They would crouch, adopt an expression of deep sympathy, and say something. The customer would look a little confused, pick up laptop and coat, and move to another table.

Next to me, cafe staff had made a long table by pushing three smaller tables together. Five Millennials sat around it. They were well-dressed like Ryan Seacrest is well-dressed, and they seemed nervous. The head of their table hadn’t been filled. I had assumed someone important, someone hoity-toity, would be coming, someone like a foundation executive director.

Except, as I’ve already hinted, it’s Barack Obama that turns up to have a chat with them.

Meyer’s account is interesting as it’s clear that while he was (perhaps understandably) overwhelmed by POTUS popping into his local cafe, he is also very objective about the way that Obama “works the crowd”, including the author:

The president makes eye contact with me.
“Great to see you,” says the president.

The president extends his hand while simultaneously pivoting on his right foot.
His hands grasp mine. They feel like the rough surface of your favorite baseball.

Eye contact was broken mid-handshake. His hand trailed his turned body *which has already turned on the pivoted foot.* He greeted a couple across the way from me.

This concludes my communication with the president of the United States.

Obviously, the whole thing is just one big PR exercise, otherwise the meeting would have been held somewhere private, not in a downtown cafe in… America. But that fairly obvious observation doesn’t mean that it isn’t a special or memorable moment for those present. The whole post is definitely worth a read, if just to see how this sort of thing operates.

I do have a bit of a story in this regard as well. Back in the day when I used to frequent the excellent Quod Brasserie on the High Street in Oxford, even on a Friday or Saturday when the queue outside would be down to Longwall Street, suddenly – astoundingly – 3 empty tables would be found. Two of these tables would be taken by… well… as Meyer describes above: “youthful, vigorous men and women wearing Business Semi-Formal”, and a few moments later, in would walk Chelsea Clinton with her friend/friends/colleagues and take the third table.
We would glance across at her over our Bloody Marys and rib-eye steaks, but not for too long, in case the youthful, vigorous men and women got antsy – this was just after 9/11, after all – but she seemed very down to earth and quiet, and thus, so were we.

I bumped into Chelsea at Quod on several occasions, which either indicates that she also has excellent taste in restaurants and she was hoping to see me or that it was just very convenient for her security detail to get her to, in and out of, since it’s virtually next door to University College where she was studying.

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