Two weeks before the Salahis crashed their way into America's consciousness, a couple of Georgian tourists unwittingly bumbled into an invite-only lunch at the White House. Their story, as reported today by the AP, is adorable.
It was Nov. 11th, a brisk, beautiful day at the nation's capital. 67 year-old Harvey Darden and his wife, Paula, had come up to DC from tiny Hogansville, Ga for some sight-seeing. High on their list was the White House, home to President Barack Obama and his beautiful family. The Dardens had voted for Obama, so they made sure to schedule a tour with their congressman before they left Georgia.
The Dardens were excited. So excited, in fact, that they showed up for the tour an entire day early. There was no tour that day! Imagine how crestfallen they would have been to be turned away at the last moment after driving all the way up from Georgia! Harvey would have looked at Paula with a sad, forced smile. They would have driven silently home, a shade descending permanently over Harvey's life; even the handmade rocking chairs that had been his passion since retiring as a pharmacist would seem somehow cheap. Empty.
Instead, something strange and magical happened to the Dardens that day. First, they were subjected to a Secret Service screening. (The Dardens had already received a background check in advance of their visit the next day.) Then, according to the AP:
...they were ushered into the East Room, offered a buffet spread and told they'd be meeting the president.
The president!? Of... of America?
"The further we got into the White House, the more surprised we were," Darden told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "My wife looked at me and I looked at her, and I said, 'You know, I don't know if we're in the right place.'"...
The Dardens approached an aide who was mingling with guests.
"I told him, 'I don't think this is part of the White House tour,'" Darden said. "He said, 'No it's not. It's an invitation event for veterans.'"
A White House spokesman later said staff had allowed the Dardens to 'crash' the Veterans lunch, as "a nice gesture." Since Harvey was a veteran, it seemed doubly appropriate.
The East Room was magnificent, dotted with shimmering chandeliers, curtains that cascaded like gold waterfalls and paintings as big as the Dardens' living room wall back home in Georgia. We would like to imagine that a faint bark issued from behind one of the the heavy closed doors. Bo?
Perhaps the Dardens then noticed a fragrance filling the room: a subtle mix of pine, lavender and olive oil. The scent of the Obamas:
Shortly thereafter, Barack and Michelle Obama arrived and began talking and getting photographs with guests at each table. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, also stopped by.
Darden said it was "quite a treat" to meet the Obamas and the Bidens... The couple's only regret, Darden said, is that they haven't received a copy of that picture taken with the Obamas.
The Dardens returned to Georgia, filled with wonder. They had met The Obamas! (Oh... and, also the Bidens?) And everyone lived happily ever after until the mean Salahis showed up two weeks later and ruined crashing the White House for everyone.