What is a true personal story that people have a hard time believing? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
I once hung up the phone on Hillary Clinton.
Not intentionally. I have tremendous respect for the First Lady of the United States, whoever she is or whatever party she's from. I just forgot that when I was on the phone with her.
I was in college, 1999. I had a summer internship at the Clinton White House. I loved government and wanted to get into it. I filled out an application and was accepted into the Office of the Millennium, the office that emerged when someone reminded Clinton he was going to preside over the Millennium, and he had better throw a party.
That was our job: to throw the parties. Except it was summertime, so I did not actually get to attend any millennial parties. Although I heard they were quite nice.
What was it like being a White House Intern? You know Charlie in The West Wing? How he got to be next to the Oval Office and see the President, and they got to know each other? And how the President took him under his wing and gave him special pens? It was nothing like that.
I did not work in the West Wing. Or the East Wing. Or even the White House. I didn't work in the Old Executive Office Building either -- the other building you see occasionally on TV. Pretty much everyone who is not in the White House has their office in the OEOB. Except us.
Which, now that I think about it, I'm okay with. We were basically a party-planning office, so it was best we didn't get in the way of the real government work that was being done elsewhere.
I worked in a building within walking distance of the White House. You didn't need a badge to get into my building. Or an ID. In fact, all you needed were hands to open the door. And if you didn't have hands, I'm sure someone would have just opened it for you, let you in, and given you a pamphlet about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Almost all the calls we got were from people who went to whitehouse.com, looking to complain about taxes or potholes and finding not their friendly government, but a porn site. They would then call the real White House, be passed through to us, and announce, "Did you know your site has porn on it? Isn't that just like Clinton? Hadn't you better do something about it?"
"Yes, thank you, sir/ma'am, you want http://www.whitehouse.GOV. No, it is not affiliated with this administration. No, we are not making money off it. I'm sorry you won't be voting for the President again. Oh wait, it's his second term, we don't need your vote. Get lost."
So no, my experience as an intern was not remotely like Charlie's. My job was to listen to speeches and type them up. The technical word is "transcribe." I transcribed the hell out of quite a few speeches, I don't mind saying.
I also did "copying," "collating," and occasional "binder clipping." I could see the White House from our building -- or at least, I could see the protestors outside. They were there every day too, and unpaid, like me! I wondered if one could intern with a protest movement.
Funny enough, my boss's name was also Ellen. This is important. One day, I was covering for Boss Ellen's assistant who was out with the flu, playing hooky, or just dead -- I cannot remember. I got a break from the copier (and it got a break from me). Promoted! I was scared.
It was going fine, relatively fine, when Boss Ellen got a phone call on her line. I answered it for her outside her office.
Me: "Hello, Ellen's Office."
On the phone: "Hey Ellen, it's Hillary. What do you think about..."
The First Lady was calling me! She knows my name! She wants to know what I think!
Me: "HOLY S**T IT'S YOU!!!"
I just swore at the First Lady of the United States.
Panic. Slam down the phone.
I just hung up on the First Lady of the United States.
It is as bad as it sounds. When the only people you've been talking to are senior citizens telling you about porn sites, and a one-way conversation with a broken copier, you get a bit rusty.
Overwhelmed by the awesomeness of talking to the First Lady, thinking she meant me directly when she said "Ellen," I got verbal diarrhea and swore at her. Then, in shock, I slammed down the phone, thinking that would undo everything. Realizing that I had done that, I then yelled out an even worse obscenity to the entire office.
The rest happened pretty quickly:
My boss called out, "What is going on out there!?"
The First Lady's aide called back immediately, and I apologized. She ignored me and said, "Put us through, please?" I put the call through.
My boss never mentioned it to me. I was too embarrassed to look at her again. I went back to the copier. My old friend.
I never did meet Hillary Clinton. Which is too bad; I think she would have been very nice about that time I swore at her and then hung up.