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  • Writer's pictureKirk

First International Trip

Why not start at the beginning?

My first trip overseas was a company trip to Sweden. I was vacationing in Maine but interrupted my trip to fly to Sweden for a company meeting. My ticket took me from Portland to Atlanta to JFK to Amsterdam to Stockholm. Then a two hour train ride north to Soderhaam.

I will relay the experience I had on the flight portion first and the train excursion on another post.

My company bought me a business class ticket for this trip (later the company was bought by private equity and business class tickets were no longer an option for engineers). I boarded my plane in Portland and was seated in row two aisle seat. I noticed a dark large SUV pull up outside the plane and men with dark suits escorting an elderly woman up a set of dedicated stairs to the first class (domestic FC that is) section.

It was Barbara Bush with two of her Secret Service agents! At the time she resided in Kennebunkport, Maine so it was no big surprise. She took the seat in row 3 window behind me and one agent took the aisle beside her. To my surprise the other agent took row 1 aisle in front of me so I was seated in the aisle seat between the two agents.

Now these agents looked like they do in the movies. They were physically fit with dark suits and dark glasses. It was a bit intimidating being between them.

As the flight progressed many on board stopped to praise this wonderful woman. Not wanting to be another fawning fan I just listened but did not engage. But I did eavesdrop!

The secret service man beside her was flourishing her with gratitude and praise for all sorts of trivial things I won't mention. Suffice it to say it really embarrassing to even listen to. But it probably worked for him.

Later I could hear the former First Lady talk about Nancy (I assume Reagen). I don't think it's appropriate for me to discuss the details of the discussion but I'll say I bent my head strainingly to hear every word of this juicy conversation!

When we landed and were to deplane, this is when it got awkward. Since you deplane by rows it put me in a situation to enter the aisle between row 1 SS agent and the former First Lady (the 2nd SS guy stood behind her). Not wanting to get between them I stood from my seat but did not enter the aisle. Mrs. Bush looked at me and told me to go ahead. No way! I'm not falling for that! I had a vision of being tackled and handcuffed with a small beating ensuing. It was then I spoke my only words to her, "No ma'am, after you".

Wow! I spoke to her. Surely she could hear the humble kindness in my voice. She looked at me, smiled, then proceeded down the aisle. Although nothing else was said, it was not needed. We had our moment. I could tell from her eyes I had made a lasting impression on her. We were now forever linked. I'm sure George heard all about on her return.

I wish the story ended there, but alas. The journey continued and I took my business class seat on the JFK to Amsterdam flight. Seated next to a distinguished looking lady I felt the need to relay my previous experience. I asked "Guess who I just flew with earlier?"

She gave the obligatory reply, "Who?"

I beamed with pride and replied, "Barbara Bush!" Now I expected her to respond with deep envy. Maybe she might even want my autograph? I don't know.

The lady responded, "Oh Barbara, how is she?" The lady knew her personally! That's because she was the wife to the ambassador to Hungary!

I was so embarrassed for name dropping as I did. Who am I to pretend to know someone so famous? How do I repond to her query? I have no personal knowledge to her health.

I told her she was fine then made a bathroom excuse. Embarrassed, I avoided any further conversation for the long flight overseas.

But the whole experienced spoiled me into thinking I would meet all kinds of famous people on future overseas business class flights. But boy was I wrong! I never had a similar experience since. But if I had, I guarantee I would have avoided name dropping.

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