What Went Through My Head When I Saw Bill Clinton In Person In A DC Bookstore That Time

Claire Handscombe


Back in the simpler time that was December 2015, I was shopping at Politics and Prose in North West DC in their Member Sale one Friday when my bookseller friend came up to me and whispered that Bill Clinton was downstairs in the kids’ section.

Note: this is one more point in favour of shopping in independent bookshops. And a point in favour of shopping there so often that you make friends with the staff. And a point in favour of being nice to your booksellers. For those keeping count at home, that’s three points in favour of indies.

Anyway, I digress. An app I loved called The List App had trained me to think in lists back then, and so this is how I recorded my thoughts. To be honest, I was not coherent enough to think in paragraphs anyway. There was something magnetic about this man, but maybe his Secret Service agents had something to do with that.

  • What? I must have misheard.
  • No. She definitely said Bill Clinton.
  • I totally need to go downstairs and buy children’s books!
  • Totally legit.
  • Where is he though. I can’t see him.
  • Oh. There he is!
  • How close is it okay to get?
  • He’s looking at picture books. For the granddaughter maybe?
  • I wonder if he knows about The Book With No Pictures?
  • I totally want to recommend it.
  • Where is it where is it where is it
  • I can’t immediately find it so never mind and let’s be honest I’m too scared and starstruck
  • I’ll just stand over here and take this picture instead


  • And then take a few more
  • Man, this totally almost makes up for all those times I’ve missed President Obama being here — sometimes by just a few hours
  • I love DC so much
  • I wonder if he’s a member of the store
  • I bet the twenty percent discount this weekend is coming in really handy for him!
  • He’s going upstairs now
  • Who was I kidding, I don’t really need kids’ books, I should go upstairs too
  • What a coincidence! He’s going into the fiction section! That’s my favourite section.
  • I’ll just stand here deciding which of these writing craft books I want.
  • Who am I kidding, I can’t make decisions about which books to buy when President Clinton is just standing there a few metres away
  • My life is so surreal sometimes
  • I need a book recommendation for my step dad who loves American politics and history. He would totally have a good one.
  • But I am still too scared and starstruck so will take more pictures instead.


  • I should probably spend a lot of money here to show my gratitude
  • Though I have already spent a lot of money here over the years so maybe this is my reward?
  • I really want to tweet and Instagram about this but I can’t till he’s gone so I’ll text three of my best friends instead
  • He’s paying! He’s leaving. Now I can post things, yay.
  • My knees are still weak.

Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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