One of the great benefits of consular line work is the regular hours. We start early, but the day is typically over by 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon. No late nights. No week-ends. That is, when the G8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting isn’t taking place in your backyard.
The last week was a definite change of pace. I had my regular duties in the morning, interviewing 30 or so non-immigrant visa applicants. In the afternoon, I was a minor cog in a large team preparing for the U.S. delegation’s 2-day visit to Ottawa and Gatineau for the G8.
The boss has a lot of titles. To most of the world, she’s the Secretary of State, America’s Chief Diplomat, former Presidential Candidate, or former First Lady. To those of us inside the State Department bubble, she is simply S.
Getting to work with the advance team preparing for an S visit can be a lot of fun. It can also get a little scary. As a site officer, I had the responsibility for ironing out all the details for one particular site. It’s the kind of job that you get noticed only if you screw up.
When I received the assignment, one of the senior folks remarked that I must be setting the record for the shortest time between completing A-100 and serving as a site officer for an S visit. Great. Honestly, I’m in no hurry. What I thought was a pretty simple, straight-forward itinerary (motorcade arrives, reception, working dinner, motorcade departs) had a million minor moving parts, all of which remained fluid up to and after the event began.
Leading up to game day, I had a bunch of meetings with the people on site, with others on the team, and with other delegations. I thought I had everything buttoned down. Well, things change. No press inside the building turned into press opportunities upstairs and downstairs including a short bilateral meeting with the Japanese delegation. I learned a lot, very quickly, concerning protocol for such meetings — who sits where, what flags get positioned where, etc.
Although not always smooth behind the scenes, everything was ready when all the Foreign Ministers arrived. The movements from each event went smoothly, and everything went off pretty much as planned. Although S passed me in the tight hallway a couple of times, I think I did my job well enough that she doesn’t know my name.
Once our blackberries chirped that S was airborne, the marines opened the doors to the “wheels up” party and another visit was in the books. Back to the regular hours for awhile until POTUS arrives in June.