For people who aren’t in the political bubble that is Washington, D.C., the ways of Congress can seem confusing and mysterious. So let me share a story about one Halloween in Congress that will shed a little light on how that ecosystem operates.
A few years ago, I was a yeoman staffer for an obscure committee. I arrived at work early that Halloween, but despite the hour, there was still a line to go through the security screening, which annoyed me. When I looked at the front of the line to see what was causing the holdup, I saw an attractive young woman in a costume. Wearing costumes for Halloween was not uncommon on the Hill, especially on a day (like that one) where neither the House or the Senate was in session. What was unusual was that this woman had made the spectacularly bad decision of dressing like a prostitute — replete with too-short skirt, revealing top, ripped fishnet stockings, and very high heels.
The issue slowing the line down was that the security guards were having too good a time leering at her to let her depart after a few seconds, so they had engineered some sort of “problem” with the x-ray machine to keep her there a little longer so they could chat her up — and casually inquire which office she works at. Finally, they deigned to let her pass, and as soon as she was on her way I could hear one of the Capitol policeman whisper in his walky-talky, “Activate the Alpha-Bravo team,” which sounded pretty ominous to me.
The gaggle of us behind her in line proceed to go through the x-ray machine as fast as possible, so as to have a chance to follow her — the security guards acquiescing because they were too busy staring at the woman’s behind to bother with the guys that set off the metal detector.
A handful of other male staffers and I began walking as fast as we could — while looking casual — to catch up with the star of the metal detector and steal another glance. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there appears a small army of Capitol Policeman doing the best they could to pretend that they just happened to be hanging around in that long, windowless, office-less passage that leads from the building entrance to the elevator bank. Had I not been too busy looking somewhere else, I’m sure I would have counted at least 30 or 40 policeman along my path.
I managed to catch up and take the elevator with the costumed woman, and it just so happened we were going to the same floor. When we stepped out of the elevator we were greeted by — again, amazingly — another couple dozen policemen. She sauntered to her office and I went on my way while the policemen on the floor huddled to share observations.
My two hill lessons that day: Young kids sometimes make inappropriate choices — even the ambitious ones who work for Congress — and the Capitol Police have a code for “hot woman en route.”
— Ike Brannon is director of economic policy and congressional relations for the American Action Forum.