Well, Those White House Security Guards Certainly Were RudeCommentary • Politics • Opinion • ISSUE 40•34 • Aug 25, 2004 By Marjorie Lemont Marjorie Lemont I've traveled all over this country, but I don't believe that I've ever in all my years been treated as poorly as I was at the White House today. I was shouted at, grabbed, and treated like some sort of vagabond. I would expect that sort of thing in Russia, but not in a free country. Those uniformed guards sure could stand to learn some manners. It all started in the Blue Room. Our tour guide told us it was where Grover Cleveland was married. I had no idea that anyone was married in the White House. It must have been splendid, with dignitaries and captains dressed in the fineries of the day. I figured that if we were allowed to go into the Blue Room, we would be allowed to poke around for wedding-photo albums. I was trying to get to the drawers, and, well, a certain White House security guard had other ideas. There was no need for him to take that tone with me! I am a human being, not a bad dog. He repeated, "Ma'am, please stay behind the ropes" at least 10 times. And that wasn't the worst part. How the heck was I to know where the bathroom was? I'd had a jumbo Diet Pepsi in the Smithsonian cafeteria earlier, and I had to go number one! I would have asked the tour guide to show me where the restroom was, but he was in the middle of a speech about all the historical meetings that have taken place in the Oval Office. (Not that we were allowed in the Oval Office. They only let us peer at it from around the corner, like peeping toms.) Anyway, rather than interrupt the guide, I used my smarts. I thought, "If this were my house, where would the bathroom be?" I figured it would be upstairs, so I left the tour group on my own to avoid making a scene. Well, lord oh me, what a mistake that was! Before I got halfway up the stairs, five men had surrounded me. They wouldn't even let me go do my business before they led me into some little side room and asked me a bunch of questions. When I reached into my pocket for a Kleenex, a guard grabbed my arm like I was a common criminal. Grabbed my arm right there! Can you imagine being treated like that? I told him, "I am a taxpayer, so this is my house, too!" They insisted on waving me up and down with a metal-detector wand, even though I told them that I'd already gone through security on the way in. It's as if they didn't even hear me. They even looked through my fanny pack before they let me go back to the group. That wasn't the last of it. The guard in Lincoln's bedroom was even more abusive. I tried to tell him that I just wanted to get a closer look at the place where Lincoln was laid out before he was buried, but he wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise. He was all, "Ma'am, step back" and "Excuse me, excuse me, ma'am." Well, I never! Here's a little helpful hint: If you don't want people to touch the presidential portraits, put them behind plastic. How could anyone resist running a finger along Eisenhower's forehead? Besides, what's the point of showing us things if we can't take pictures of them? "No flash photography," indeed. The tour guide told me that flashes fade the valuable artifacts, but my family has taken our Christmas photo in front of our shadow box for the past 20 years, and my porcelain kitten statuettes look as nice as the day I bought them! Well, I didn't know how to turn the flash off on my darn camera, and I didn't drive all the way to Washington for nothing, so I just thought I'd snap a couple of the less significant portraits. Can you believe the guide bit my head off for something so innocent? He even threatened to take my camera away until the end of the tour. Honestly. In Chatfield, where I'm from, they don't treat you like that. At the Chatfield Library, the librarian always lets me use the employee bathroom if I'm back in the periodicals section. And I can touch anything I want. I even went behind the desk once to grab a pencil, and they didn't clap me in irons. In Washington, however, they acted like I was some sort of... well, to be honest, I have no idea what they thought. I've been treated shabbily this entire vacation. On the way into the Capitol building, they went through my purse. You never go through a woman's purse! That's where she keeps her feminine things. Then, at the National Air and Space Museum, they yelled at me because I was lingering in the space capsule too long. It's not like I could've flown to the moon in that thing, even if it worked, which it didn't. Well, if that's how they do things in the nation's capital, it's quite a shame. People in Chatfield know how to treat their fellow man with respect. You had better believe that I'm going to write to my congressman and let him know a thing or two. Maybe I can spare some other curious citizen this sort of indignity. You know, I was going to vote for President Bush again, but after this, I might think twice.