Kevin Brunell keeps telling himself that it’s an honor just to be nominated.
“It’s sort of like being a Grammy nominee,” he told me. “Not a lot of people get that opportunity, even if you don’t win.”
A little over a week ago Kevin was summoned to the office at Lincoln, the restaurant on Vermont Avenue NW where he’s a waiter.
“They handed me a confidentiality agreement and said I wasn’t allowed to talk with anybody,” Kevin explained. The secret: He was among the staffers handpicked to serve the president of the United States of America. Four winners of a “Dinner With Barack” campaign fundraising event were going to lunch with the president at Lincoln on Friday, and Kevin was among three servers detailed to the meal.
As the Secret Service machinery went to work — background checks, security audits — the Lincoln employees were given strict instructions not to let anyone know.
“I had this secret for like a whole week,” Kevin said. “I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t tell my family. I didn’t tell my cat.”
Kevin has waited on his share of celebrities — or what count as celebrities around here. He was a server for Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), the youngest (and according to Men’s Health, fittest) congressman in the House. “That was really neat,” Kevin said.
Al Gore was at the restaurant for an event once. And Kevin once handed Michele Bachmann a glass of water — “which was a little awkward for me.”
Not a Bachmann supporter?
“I don’t think she’s a me supporter,” Kevin said.
But, of course, all of this pales in comparison with the Big One. Mountain climbers have Everest. Distance swimmers have the English Channel. Big game hunters have the white rhino. Washington waiters have the POTUS.
Kevin got a haircut and a manicure. For the first time in his life, he had the little hairs shaved off his ears. (Somehow, his hairstylist already knew Obama would be lunching at Lincoln, suggesting that the CIA should invest in a network of hairdressers.)
Kevin daydreamed about the 8-by-10 picture he would give to his family in Michigan when he visited them in July. (Him and the Prez.) He envisioned the world’s coolest Facebook profile photo.
As the big day drew closer, Kevin’s subconscious went into overdrive.
“I had a dream that he and I were on the patio at the high-top tables, smoking Cuban cigars very casually. I said to him, ‘You know, I wanted to talk to you about gay marriage and NDAA [the National Defense Authorization Act] and can you please stop Monsanto, but you probably have to talk about that all the time.’ ”
Instead, in his dream, Kevin asked the president who his favorite X-Man is.
Kevin doesn’t remember the answer. The dream got really fuzzy at that point.
“I thought he might say Jean Grey or Cyclops,” Kevin said. “It’s all speculation.”
And the reason it’s all speculation is that there would be no casual cigar. There would be no Marvel Comics discussion. There would be no Facebook profile picture. For Kevin, there would be no lunch. It was decided that the restaurant didn’t need close to two dozen staffers tending to a party of five. The list was pruned once, then pruned again. Nothing personal, but Kevin didn’t make the cut.
“I had the experience of my ego trip being taken away from me before I fully got to ride it out,” lamented Kevin, who’s 28 and is also a real estate agent.
He’s vacillating between the dull ache of disappointment and the sharp pang of bitterness, while trying to feeling good for his colleagues who did get to work that day. They, at least, got some great photos.
“I told one of them I’m going to Photoshop my face over his,” said the Waiter Who Almost Served the President.
I think the Obamas would love Camp Moss Hollow. It’s sort of like Camp David but without the snipers. What would the first family see at the Fauquier County summer camp? At-risk kids from the Washington area hiking, swimming, roasting marshmallows and generally enjoying the great outdoors.
Your gift to Camp Moss Hollow can allow a kid to expand his or her horizons. To make a tax-deductible donation, go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.