The time I met Bill Clinton

Since this is my blog, and since it’s International Left Handers Day (keep reading to discover the significance), I thought I would depart from my usual Katniss-centric ranting. And no, I’m not running out of blog entry ideas. Yet.

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It was 2008, I believe, and Hillary Clinton was running for president. She was touring the country trying to drum up support for her campaign, and so was another Clinton—Bill. Hillary, if I remember correctly, was still very much alive in terms of having a chance at winning the Democratic nomination for president later in the year, but some guy named Barack Obama was picking up a lot of steam in his campaign. I wonder what ever happened to him?

I lived in the Rio Grande Valley at the time, which is located in deep South Texas—the tip of the Texas toe, as I like to call it. The Valley, which is 90 percent Hispanic, LOVES the Clintons. Aside from it being a Democrat stronghold, Bill’s NAFTA deal that he signed while president brought jobs to the RGV, and the Valley continues growing to this day because of Bill’s bill.

I worked at a newspaper as an editor/graphic designer/columnist, and we all knew Bill was coming to town one evening to rally support for Hillary—like she needed it in the Valley. As always, we had the police scanner on—that thing used to drive me nuts—and we overheard the Valley’s finest chattering about blocking off streets in town around a Barnes & Noble bookstore. One very astute reporter realized that our 42nd president was about to go book shopping, and we should, too.

I got to Barnes & Noble, which was just down the street from the office, and there were already guys in dark suits with earpieces checking the place to make sure it was secure. I was the only civilian in the store at that moment who knew a former president was about to walk through the front doors. I’ll admit it, that was sort of a rush. In hindsight, I can’t believe the Secret Service never checked to see if any shoppers were armed.

Yes, Mr. President, it was good meeting you, too. (Parade.com photo)

I had a copy of a Bill Clinton book in my hand when the former commander in chief walked in. I don’t think anyone realized at first he was even there. I asked his handlers if he could sign my book, and they said, “No, not that one.” Apparently it said some unflattering things about Bill. They told me which book he would sign, however, so I grabbed that book before anyone even knew what was going on. Sneaky, huh?

I was the only civilian in the store at that moment
who knew a former president was about to walk through the front doors.

A murmur came over the shoppers in the store, and the murmur grew into an all-out frenzy as people realized Bill Clinton was in their city, of all the places he could be in the world at that moment. Before I knew it, the store seemed to be completely full of people, and judging by the iceberg-size smile on his face, Bill was loving every second of the attention.

In between shouts of adoration and people trying to get Bill to talk on their cellphones to relatives, I got him to sign my book and shook his hand. I noted that he and several of the previous presidents were left-handed, as am I, and he said, “I guess we’re both in our right minds!” referring to the fact that left-handed people utilize the right side of their brains more than righties. Classic Bill.

My reporter friend and a photographer managed to catch Bill before the store got mobbed, and he answered some questions for them. The reporter, however, did not ask for Bill’s autograph as he was on the job and thought it unprofessional. My respect for said reporter grew three sizes that day.

(If you’re wondering, since I wasn’t there in any official capacity representing the newspaper and had no press ID on me, I thought it was OK to get the president’s autograph—it didn’t seem unprofessional. If I had been there as, say, a photographer or reporter—on the job, like my co-worker—I would have felt uncomfortable asking No. 42 for his Herbie Hancock.)

As I left the mob, which by then seemed like it had grown into hysteria, I called my parents to tell them I had met the president.

“You met George W?!” my mom excitedly asked.

She didn’t seem as thrilled when I told her I had met Dubya’s predecessor.

Then I had dinner at McDonald’s and went back to work.

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