WASHINGTON—Explaining that the experience would be extremely awkward for each side, President Barack Obama told reporters Wednesday he is really hoping not to run into the U.S. populace after his term ends.
Obama said that once his presidency officially draws to a close on Friday, he would ideally have little or no interaction with his 324 million former constituents, adding that if he ever unexpectedly crossed paths with the American people while going for a walk or doing errands, he hoped they could each quickly continue on with their day with just a passing exchange of pleasantries.
“I’m going to try to steer clear of them, but it’s really only a matter of time before I bump into them on the street or out at a restaurant or something,” said Obama, emphasizing that while he had nothing against the United States citizenry personally, it would be highly uncomfortable to make forced small talk about how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to recently. “It’s not like I can avoid them forever. I have to go to the supermarket, don’t I? I’m sure they’ll ask about my family and what I’m doing nowadays, and I’ll have to give a whole spiel about how things are good and that I’ve been keeping busy—that kind of stuff.”
“God, I’m just dreading the whole thing,” the president added.
While conceding that he would almost inevitably encounter the populace and have no choice but to engage in a few minutes of strained conversation, the commander-in-chief said he planned to reduce such chance meetings by keeping his distance from those places where he knows the nation’s inhabitants frequently gather or at least by restricting his visits to times when they would be less likely to be around.
Obama admitted, however, that if he did bump into the American people despite such precautions, he might simply pretend not to notice them.
“Maybe I could just kind of wave at them from a distance and keep walking,” said Obama, noting that such a fleeting interaction might be enough to make the public feel acknowledged while also sparing him the lengthier back-and-forth he intensely hoped to avoid. “I feel like that’s the most I can handle right now. Seriously, just the thought of minding my own business at a gas station or wherever and suddenly finding myself in some excruciating chitchat with the general population is kind of a nightmare.”
Despite his apprehension about encountering the American public, Obama acknowledged that it’s likely he could change his position at some point in the future, when things might possibly be “a little less weird.”
“Sure, down the line, I could see us maybe chatting for a bit,” said Obama, who noted it might take another administration or two before he feels he could comfortably interact with the public again. “For now, though, I really want to just do my own separate thing and let the American people do their thing. No ill will at all. But come January 21, I guess I’m not really going to have all that much to say to them.”
Added Obama, “Eight years is a long time, you know?”