During my travels I’ve had a couple of unexpected brushes with famous people. They were never planned, but they were always fun.
My first brush with fame came in 2008 when the presidential election process was in full swing. I decided to take a few days off and go explore Philadelphia for the first time. I was walking by Independence Hall one evening when I noticed that a crowd was gathering and that part of the street was blocked off. I asked a bystander what was going on and they told me that John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, was inside the building doing a speech. The crowd was hoping he would come out and shake hands afterwards. I didn’t need to be anywhere soon, so I joined in with the crowd and waited. The Secret Service soon came out and moved everyone to the sidewalk. They confirmed that McCain was there and would take a moment to greet the crowd before leaving. The Secret Service also told the crowd to keep their hands empty when reaching for McCain’s hand for a handshake.
The view of Independence Hall was obscured by security cars and news trucks, so it was hard to see what was going on. People in the crowd were getting restless. But finally people came out of the building. First out was Meredith Viera, the co-anchor of the Today Show at the time. Then the crowd went wild as McCain came out and waved. He didn’t try making a speech- even if he did, it would have been impossible to hear him over the crowd. He went down the line and did the handshake bit. Despite my 5′ 2″ frame I somehow managed to reach over the crowd and shake his hand for barely a second, and he then moved on. At the end he gave one last wave before being escorted to his car.
McCain lost the election two months later. But the experience of meeting such a prominent politician in a city known for its political history became the highlight of my Philly trip.
My second brush with fame came earlier this year in the UK. I went to a Women of Aviation event that celebrated the first time a woman flew over the English Channel. Pilots from around the world came out to the event, which involved flying over the Channel to the French side. Two of those pilots was the drummer of Pink Floyd, Nick Mason, and his wife Annette. They flew in their own beautifully-painted helicopter. Nick couldn’t stay long, but he did talk about how he became a pilot. Annette stayed as she was going to join the aerial convoy in the helicopter.
I was going to be flying in a different plane across the Channel. But plans changed and passengers were getting shuffled around. Shortly before the first plane took off, another girl asked if I wanted to fly in the helicopter with her. Fly in the
Pink Floyd helicopter? With the wife of one of the band members? Oh heck yes! Annette was every bit the rock star as she posed for the cameras with the helicopter before we loaded up.
The flight was spectacular and talking with Annette and the others in the helicopter made for good conversation. The flight lasted nearly45 minutes and went by the Cliffs of Dover, over the water and along the French countryside. At the airport, we were all treated like rock stars with media taking pictures and a large crowd welcoming us.
For one moment, I got to pretend to be a famous person too. Annette eventually had to fly back, but not before participating in some presentations and posing for many pictures.
I don’t know when I’ll run into a famous person next, but when I do, I hope it’s another memorable travel experience.