Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Day I Put the White House on Hold

Shared this with my family last weekend, and thought it was a good enough opportunity to make fun of myself...

It was the summer before my last semester of college. I went to an internship fair with The City of Kansas City and hoped to interview with the City Manager's staff for an event planning and communications internship.

I showed up at the fair...and I was the ONLY white girl there. Out of like 400+ interviewees...most of which were several years younger. And shorter. My bleach blonde hair was like a neon sign on my head.

After interviewing, they ended up placing me in Mayor Sly James' office, for a communcations internship. I was so thrilled! My job there was to run Mayor James' Facebook fan page, monitor all media, write congratulatory letters on behalf of the Mayor, follow him to interviews with the press, take photos of him with the public and....

answer phones.

I made a verbal agreement to not give out details of the incoming calls from the public...but I can tell you that 50% of the calls were overgrown weed complaints and most of the others were just confused as to what kind of power a Mayor actually has.

"I'm sorry, Mayor James cannot bail your boyfriend out of jail."


I was given strict instructions to ALWAYS put the caller on hold to be sure the employee they were requesting to speak with was available. If they requested the Mayor, there was a 99% chance he wouldn't be able to talk. Not because he wasn't willing -he is a super sincere, humble guy -he is just genuinely TOO BUSY to be answering calls.

So this lady calls one day and says "Hello! This is "so-and-so" with the White House calling with Barack Obama. Is Mayor James available?"

Before I continue....I will remind you again, that the public called about crazy things. Often. I once had a lady crying because her neighbor wouldn't stop feeding wild raccoons.

So my first reaction to "so-and-so" saying she is from the White House is...ya, right. No idea why the White House would actually be calling Kansas City, Missouri.

I let her know Mayor James may be in a meeting and asked if she could hold. Ya know...just in case.

I walk over to the guy who works under the Mayor, and casually say "Hey John, the White House is on hold and they are asking for Mayor James."

"OMG WHAT!? THE WHITE HOUSE? YOU PUT THEM ON HOLD!?"

"Umm yes. I'm supposed to put everyone on hold."

"YOU DON'T PUT THE WHITE HOUSE ON HOLD! Run over there and transfer them to me quick!"

So I run over there and transfer the call to John. Then we interrupt the Mayor's meeting so he can talk to Barack Obama.

I would like to go ahead and defend myself by saying that NO ONE told me that the President was making some sort of "Mayor honorary" list and NO ONE told me that Mayor James may have been nominated and NO ONE told me the White House might ACTUALLY call our office. Plus the number was private. Plus it was like my second week there.

I learned from that internship that I am not cut out for politics. The office had to daily explain basic government concepts, and I had to sit in so many city hall meetings with vocabulary I didn't understand that I kind of wanted to just go to sleep for the rest of my life.

At least Sly didn't hate me for putting the president on hold. He thought it was funny. When the summer was over he wrote me a card that said "Katie, you are a breath of fresh air."

I was hoping for political genius, but I guess I'll take it.

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