There are a ton of things the president can't do in an official capacity as the head of the Executive Branch. But there are also mundane, everyday things the US president isn't allowed to do while in office, mainly for security reasons, that are quite surprising. Ironically, they're the kind of freedoms so commonplace most Americans take them for granted.
Many of the forbidden activities listed below don't come from the official "rules" for being president: they're not all based on any kind of law. The everyday things American presidents can't do come primarily from the ever-evolving guidelines set in place by the Secret Service, which the president technically has the right to ignore, but doesn't, for obvious reasons. Read on for the totally normal things even the president can't do.
Drive a Car
That's right: US presidents are not even allowed to drive their own vehicles - at least not on public roads. Lyndon B. Johnson was the last president to ever drive on taxpayer-funded highway, because of course he was. Private property is a different story: George W. Bush, for example, drove a pickup truck on his Crawford, TX property and Ronald Reagan liked driving Jeeps on his ranch near Santa Barbara.
Obama, however, only drove a golf cart during his years in office, surprisingly without the Secret Service at his side (Biden was riding shotgun in a buddy comedy waiting to happen - you're welcome, Hollywood).
Ride in a Convertible
The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a turning point in the history of presidential security. Waving from an open-topped convertible in a parade just isn't an option anymore, for obvious reasons. But that tragic day in Dallas was far from Kennedy's first time riding through crowded city streets in such a vulnerable way.
In 1963, for example, Kennedy stood in the back of a convertible to wave to crowds while on a visit to Dublin. Irish president Eamon de Valera commented at the time, "what an easy target he would have been."
Use an iPhone
Not even the Commander in Chief gets to pick what kind of smartphone to use. Obama - the first president to carry a smartphone - admitted in 2013 that he was not able to use the popular iPhone due to unspecified security concerns. He instead fought to use a heavily modified Blackberry while in office, his model of choice since before his first big win back in 2008.
"They're going to pry it out of my hands," a worried Obama told CNBC at the time.
Be Alone When Out in Public
As former agent Jonathan Wackrow puts it in an interview with NBC, "Secret Service protection is the most intrusive thing that anyone could ever experience." Presidents can't even arrange a pickup basketball game - as Obama attempted early in his administration - without four hours' notice. Unless a president is safely ensconced in the fortress-like conditions of the White House, they simply can't be alone.
"Just think about you at your home tonight and four strangers just show up and they're standing in your kitchen," Wackrow said.