One cold, sunny day in Washington, near the eve of the New Year, my husband and I walked through the West Building of the National Gallery. "You know what? You're psyched," M. said. "You're psyched, because after this, we're going to see Nancy Pelosi."
Unplanned, outcome-uncertain endeavors do not usually get a warm welcome with me. (For an explanation of this, see my 'About Me' tag.) I laughed nervously and didn't say anything.
"I'm serious," M. said. "We're going to see Nancy Pelosi."
"I don't think you can just 'go see Nancy Pelosi,'" I said.
"Yes, you can," M. said. He was serious. "We are her constituents, and this is a democracy. Plus, I was roommates with her daughter once."
I tried to distract M. with some lovely British landscape paintings by John Constable. Then, as we left the museum, I suggested a walk on the Mall. But he hadn't forgotten his mission.
"Come on," he said, headed toward the Capitol Building. "We're going to see Nancy and congratulate her on her victory."
It was no use. I sighed and followed.
At the Capitol, menacing-looking guards stood sentinel as tourists milled about on the white steps. "It's closed," I said, relieved.
M. hovered around for a bit. "Right, duh, Congress isn't in session now," he said. But he still didn't move or listen when I tried to get him to turn around for our Mall walk. "I'm going to go talk with that guard," he said.
I waited while M. affirmed with the guard that, indeed, there was no getting into the Capitol.
He set off for a building nearby. "Where are you going?" I said, nervous again. "We're going over to her office," he replied.
M. ignored me as we walked the perimeter of the Rayburn Building, looking for an entrance that was open. "She's probably not even in town," I whined. "Like you said, Congress isn't in session! I'm sure she's back in California! This building is probably closed!"
It wasn't. We found an open entrance and went through security at Rayburn, hopped on the elevator, and took a long walk down the halls, passing wooden door after wooden door with each lawmaker's name neatly posted on a plate outside.
Most of them were shut. Some had newspapers piled in front of them; others had cardboard boxes and makeshift signs posted, announcing moves to other buildings -- the aftermath of a power shift. We reached Pelosi's office. A white printout was posted on the door that read: "Nancy Pelosi's office has moved to 235 Cannon."
"Oh well," I said.
"Let's find the Cannon building," M. said.
By this time I had resigned myself to our mission and decided to change my attitude. After all, it had been kind of fun walking through Rayburn. We found Cannon, which was much prettier inside than Rayburn, and passed through another X-ray machine. More office doors: a handful of them were open and showed signs of life inside. "See?" M. said. "Some people are here!"
We finally reached Pelosi's office, where the door was open and light poured out into the hall. "She's here! See? I told you!" M. said. We stood outside the office, peering in. Talking was audible inside.
M. continued to stand there. "Well, you're going in, aren't you?" I said. "We're finally here."
"I don't know," M. said sheepishly.
"Is somebody losing their resolve?" I said.
"Maybe," he said.
"After all this, you're going in that office and talking to Nancy Pelosi," I said. "So start thinking of what you're going to say."
We edged toward the door and saw reception desks on either side of us. Pelosi's office was visible to the right, with the door open, but she was nowhere to be seen.
"Is the speaker here?" M. asked a young worker at the desk, who looked confused for a moment, then brightened. "No, she's back in California," she answered. I felt both relief and disappointment.
M. explained that we were from California and wanted to say hi. "Oh! Well, I'm sure if she'd been here, she would have been very happy to meet you," the assistant said, actually seeming sincere.
M. made a bit more chit-chat with two of the office workers and then we left. "See, they have to be nice to us," he said.
"Even if we had turned out to be psychos who just wanted to heap abuse on her?" I said.
"I don't know. I think so," M. said.
Outside, we sat down on the steps of Cannon and looked at the Capitol and the Mall. I wondered what would have happened if Pelosi had actually been there. Could people really just wander in and say hello? You have to think she'd be too busy for that. But perhaps if we caught her in a down moment?
I felt a little bad for having been such a killjoy. It was a nice little adventure in the halls of democracy.