I had made a special trip out to Washington DC while on leave just for this meeting. Aides, CIA employees, and high-ranking military officers were hustling quickly back and forth in front of my sofa perch, as I attempted to blend in, not be noticed, and act like I knew what I was doing. This is the CIA, it’s only natural, right?
An aide walked up to me and apologetically explained, “the director has been delayed a few minutes up on the hill. He’s on his way though and will be here shortly, so sorry to keep you waiting!” I expressed that it really wasn’t a big deal and that I didn’t mind waiting, before easing back into my unsuccessful attempts to read some Economist article while secretly more interested in soaking in the hustle and bustle of the 7th floor.
An Air Force three-star ran by my sofa a few times as I waited, darting a few glances in my direction as I smiled at him and attempted to make small talk as he crossed the waiting area. The general was desperate for a meeting with the Director, but his secretary wasn’t having any of it. Apparently he would have to take a number, the secretary expressed apologetically*, just like everyone else.
Note to self: no thanks for that promotion.
About ten minutes had passed before the Director finally stepped out of the elevator, surrounded in all his glory by an entourage of at least twelve aides, meeting appointments, and others itching to get a few seconds of the man’s busy schedule. His chief executive assistant promptly greeted him as he stepped onto the floor, glancing briefly at me as she informed him of my presence. He nodded briskly at me, said a few parting words to a few aides, and headed quickly to his office. His assistant motioned for me to follow as I set the magazine down and bounded into the Director’s office, casting a shrugged shoulder and grin towards the dejected Air Force three-star who was left at the door as it closed behind us.
The Director warmly welcomed me into his office suite and ushered me to another sofa that set apart from his desk by a small coffee table. Sitting back in the sofa and exhaling deeply, he put his feet up on the table and explained why he was delayed up on Capitol Hill. I explained it really wasn’t a big deal, and that I was fascinated by the 7th floor, anyway. I was half-considering inquiring about the Air Force three-star waiting patiently outside but decided against it. I’m sure he’ll get his time with the director.
When the one-on-one meeting with the Director concluded about ten minutes later**, the Director walked me to the door, smiled, and confided under his breath that he was less-than-excited about getting back to finishing his work day, as much as he loved it (God bless him). I thanked him for his time, and headed out the door. It was early July, and the world was still reeling from the death of Osama bin-Laden, and the CIA had its hands full, no doubt.
As I stepped out of the office, the Director’s assistant intercepted me and began escorting me out of the lobby and back down to the real world below. She introduced herself and led me to the elevator the Director had just stepped off not 20 minutes prior, but not before I shook the Air Force general’s hand and sheepishly expressed to him that I had full confidence in his ability to secure a meeting with the Director sometime that day. He looked at me incredulously as I moved onto the elevator with the assistant, no doubt critiquing my wardrobe selection and wondering how a military man like me (and of nowhere near the general’s importance) was able to secure a meeting so easily when he was not.
While walking across the infamous foyer of the Old CIA Headquarters building, thanking my escort for her advice and time, and opening the door to the outside, I forced myself to a slow walk and breathed in the fresh Virginia air for a few cycles. What just happened? I asked myself. And I was right to ask, for my meeting with the Director was no routine one. What about that three-star? What did you say to him? What was his name? I hope he doesn’t remember me; well, you didn’t exactly introduce yourself. Thoughts and questions were racing through my head.
While this is no war story, it was an event that equates to an amazing and unforgettable (and hopefully repeatable) experience in my life thus far: the time I met the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I was only twenty-one years old at the time, and I reminded myself that I had a career ahead of me and couldn’t wait to get started. It’s not often that I share such stories, but I do so in the hopes of inspiring the readers to truly believe that anything they pursue with passion and zeal in life is possible. Try hard enough and focus your efforts properly and you might shake hands with a general, beat him to a meeting, and leave the office with no one being the wiser as to who you are or how you did it.
*The secretary did not tell a three-star to “take a number”. This was an embellishment on the author’s part for the sake of story-telling.
**The details of our meeting were excluded due to obvious OPSEC reasons.