The Quick 10: 10 Presidential Perks
As a mental_floss writer, it should come as no surprise that I love a good trivia book. Most people go to Disney World and come back with stuffed animals and Mickey-adorned t-shirts; me, I came back with How to be President by Stephen P. Williams. I got it in the shop near the Hall of Presidents, in case you're curious. Yes, I totally dragged my friends to that attraction.
Me: "Wasn't that an amazing William McKinley? That really was a remarkable likeness. And did you see how he kept making tiny movements even when the spotlight wasn't on him? You know what? They should make a Hall of the First Ladies. I bet Julia Grant would be a really interesting character. And how about Taft? He really didn't look as big as I thought he was. I wonder if that's an accurate portrayal."
Friends: ""¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦" followed by an unimpressed look.
Anyway. Super interesting facts in this book, especially with the election coming up next week. Who will be the lucky recipient of all of the free M&Ms he can handle? Only time will tell. Until then, here's some trivia about what it's like to be President.
1. The FF (first family) can park up to three vehicles behind the West Wing, although the President and First Spouse never drive around D.C. The First Children can, though, as long as they keep in touch with their Secret Service people.
2. Obviously, Presidents don't have set hours. Reagan liked to take naps during the day, it wasn't abnormal for Clinton to work ("work"?) until 3 a.m., and George W. Bush comes in around 7 a.m., takes a two-hour exercise break during the day and leaves in the late afternoon.
3. The President has his very own, top secret zip code. Friends and family can send letters to him at this zip code and it will be delivered directly to his office (although his secretary will open it first).
4. No one can enter the Oval Office without permission "“ not even the First Spouse.
He or she must obtain permission from the guard outside first. If the President has said he or she doesn't want to be disturbed by anyone, even the First Spouse is turned away. Although I probably wouldn't want to deal with the First Spouse later, when I'm not within the safe confines of the Oval Office. Yikes.
5. The White House Mess, operated by the U.S. Navy, is responsible for making sure that the President has food, no matter where in the world he or she is.
6. Special Presidential food perks: free soda from both Coke and Pepsi in fridges all over the White House, M&Ms in boxes with the Presidential Seal on the outside, and lots of other free snacks from various companies, any time you want them.
7. Every day at 5 p.m., the Mess serves free French fries (freedom fries??) to anyone hard at work in the West Wing. On Fridays, everyone gets the fries, plus frozen yogurt with smashed Oreos on top.
8. Air Force One is not one plane in particular. It applies to any plane the President is flying in. Typically, though, the President has two planes that he flies in regularly. Both of these planes have perfect safety records. And, in case you're wondering, the President can sit in the cockpit during takeoff and landing if he or she so chooses. I wonder if the pilot gives out wings?
9. Presidential limos only get about 10 mpg in the city.
10. The President doesn't need to leave the White House to have fun. There's the pool, which FDR had installed in 1933 because swimming was good upper body exercise for him. In 1969, Nixon filled it in, but Ford had it restored pretty much immediately. George W. had solar panels installed in 2002 so the pool would be heated. There's also a movie theater "“ the front row seats are all La-Z-Boys. George H.W. had a horseshoe pit installed during his term, and in 1947, a bowling alley was installed for Harry Truman. Although Nixon apparently wasn't a fan of swimming, he loved the bowling alley and was known for bowling all by himself.
There's lots more where that came from "“ I highly recommend picking up the book. It's a quick read, it's cheap ($10) and it's fascinating.