Meet on top of a parking garage. Pack warm. Pack light.
Those were my only instructions as I head out on a top secret Thanksgiving trip with the President of the United States.
“Are you Kristin?” said a man on top of the parking garage who looked like he was in the Secret Service, but wouldn’t confirm it. Once we were rolling to Joint Base Andrews, he hit me with the bomb that I knew was coming. “In a few minutes, I’m going to need to take all of your cell phones, iWatch, iPad, MiFi, anything that can transmit a signal.”
HOW TRUMP'S THANKSGIVING AFGHANISTAN TRIP WAS KEPT UNDER WRAPS AMID EXTREME SECURITY
I had prepared for this moment. I’d written down about a dozen phone numbers in a notebook that I never use. I scribbled out the names of people and places I might encounter without access to Google for a spell check. I printed out pages and pages of articles that might be relevant for wherever we were going. And yet, I still felt like I was giving away an organ as I said goodbye to my three cell phones. “Maybe a digital detox will be good for me!” I quipped, but didn’t mean it. I was really thinking about all the content-that-could-have-been for my Instagram feed.
I was still compulsively checking my pockets for my ghost phones by the time I boarded an aircraft that I can’t disclose and shook hands with people that I cannot name (not because I don’t want to name them, but because most of them wouldn’t tell me their names). Someone asked me if I’d brought food. No. Someone else asked if I brought ear protection. Definitely no. Someone else told me that if I need to use the bathroom, use the aircraft’s built-in bathroom and not the moderately fancy port-a-potty that had been brought in for the VIPs we were picking up. Noted.
After a two-hour flight to an undisclosed airport in Florida, I was instructed to move up to the cockpit. “The boss is coming.” The move was meant to give the President and the handful of senior advisers traveling with him some privacy from the only member of the press on the plane. But shortly after boarding, President Trump climbed into the cockpit and said, “Where’s the press?” We shook hands and he asked if I was going “all the way.” Yes but, all the way… where?
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