So I had all my stuff and I'm wandering around the streets of London at 3:30 in the morning trying to get a cab to get back, finally get it, get to Heathrow and go into the terminal, where my plane is, and I'm passing this long line of people and I remember feeling very sorry for them, because they obviously had some difficulty that they were waiting in line and this line snaking around.
And then as I turned right, you know, I noticed the line was turning right, too, and, sure enough, it was my flight that was the problem. All the computers were down, and I got turned around and went back to the end of the line.
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Were you worried that if you missed your flight, you're not going to be…?
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, I was sure that things were moving and the White House was a very efficient operation and I'm sure if I wasn't there, they'd just go down the list and take whoever was next.
So I was getting a little nervous. Eventually, they checked everybody on and I had a long flight back, got into…
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Again, you didn't know.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: No. There were no promises that anything was going to happen. It was kind of, you just sort of have to be present to win, but it doesn't mean that you're going to get anything.
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: You knew if you stayed you weren't going to be the nominee.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Right, and I remember we landed and I was going through customs in Dulles and on the Blackberry, I got an urgent message to call the White House right away. And if you've been to Dulles, customs, you know, every 10 feet, they have this big sign saying, "If you use a cell phone, it will be confiscated immediately." So I couldn't do that.
I couldn't very well jump out of the line at customs without attracting a lot of attention. But then I finally got through and I called and they said I needed to be home by 12:30 for a phone call.
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And what time was it?
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: It was 11:40 exactly and it takes exactly that long to get from Dulles to my house. So I had just enough time. I remember diving into the first cab, yelling out where I needed to go and the cab driver turning around and saying, "This is my first day on the job. Where is this place, Chevy Chase?"
But I was yelling directions at him the whole time and I got home at 12:30, threw a bunch of money at him that I think were English pounds. And as I walked in the door, the phone was ringing and it was the call from the White House.
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And the White House, was it the president on the line?
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: No, it wasn't. It was his counsel, Harriet Miers. And I have to tell you, I'm a nervous enough sort that my first reaction is, well, this isn't good news, because if they were going to offer me the job, it would be the president calling. But then I chatted with her for a little while and then she put me on hold and then the president came on and offered me the job.
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: What did you say?
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I said yes.
CRAWFORD GREENBURG: So you went down to the White House, got ready, and then I guess, at some point, it was time to go out and the president was going to introduce you to the nation. How long had you been awake at that point?
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Almost 24 hours, you know, 3:30 in London, whatever that translates at, but I was certainly going on adrenaline.