Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder...
I'm. notorious for not being able to recognize famous people -- oh I could recognize the current or any of the recent past presidents, or maybe a celebrity or two should they be Bono in those dark blue glasses, Whoopi in her dreads or Charles Osgood in his signature bow tie. But for the most part, nada.
Apropos of that deficiency, I can't remember when I've wished so much that Molly was around to hear a story of mine (instead of it usually being the other way 'round) as I did that day in April when I boarded my flight from Austin to Newark. Because I always get an aisle seat, I usually wait until the last minute to board, giving time for seatmates to settle in and avoiding all that nonsense of waiting while type A types toggle and shove their beleaguered suitcases into overheard compartments. This time my delayed boarding paid off. Big time. Here's what happened:
As I snail-walked behind the still lined-up passengers, I met the eyes of a familiar oval-round face with snow white hair and a receding hair line. But from familiar how, from where? It made me crazier and crazier as I got nearer and nearer, unable to assign name to visage.
And then it hit me. "Excuse me," I said with a smile, "but who was the first person to tell you you look exactly like John Cornyn?" He smiled back and said, "My mother."
"Good seeing, you senator," I said as I moved on. Once in my 26D seat, seat belt fastened, electronic devices off, seat in upright and tray in stowed and locked in position, I whipped out my trusty little notebook. Even though long retired from the newsroom, I still carry one with me. Never know when you're gonna encounter a senator with whom you have absolutely nothing in common on a three-hour flight. Gotta make the best possible use of the time without risking mid-air arrest which requires having the patience to wait until you're at a cruising altitude of 32,000 feet. Notes. Must have notes.
With notes scribbled and committed to memory, down the aisle I went. It was a reasonable safe gambit: Cornyn had an aisle bulkhead seat, immediately behind first class, and had had the whole row to himself. Immediately across from the good senator was an Amazonian type dressed way too conspicuously inconspicuously not to have been either an air marshal ("marshallette"?) or a badly disguised member of the security team. She too had the entire row. Immediately behind her sat a very muscular young man with almost no neck who was surely there on the senator's protective behalf. He watched me suspiciously, and with fairly good reason.
No matter. I was not there to do harm or make a fuss -- only to tell my senator three things. As I approached, Senator Cornyn apparently sensed my presence because he looked up.
Mission accomplished: eye contact.
Pardon me senator," I said. "I apologize for disturbing you, but this is as close as I'll ever get to you in real life, and since we wouldn't agree on anything other than the fact that we're on the same plane headed for the same destination, I just wanted to say three things to you."
A thinly veiled look if displeasure came over him as he replied, "Well, I'm trying to take a nap here."
I answered with the hang-dog look familiar to any beagle owner: "I know, and I do apologize,," I said, "but since I'm a constituent and I help pay your salary I only need two minutes of your time to say one, I think Guantanamo should be closed immediately; two, torture is wrong now, always has been, always will be; and three, automatic weapons belong only in the hands of police officers and military personnel. -- Oh and one more thing: I think Ted Cruz is an asshole, and you shouldn't lower yourself to his level."
Let me pause here long enough to say that even when he is distorting facts to the breaking point, John Cornyn has always comported himself in a very Southern Gentlemanly kind of way. So I give him props for being soft-spoken and polite even as he tap dances on what passes for reality in most quarters. Plus, he didn't summon his bodyguard to march me back to my seat.
The senator looked momentarily startled, doubtless taken aback by my genteel. ladylike language, and asked, "What did you say?" As I began to repeat my three-points, " he said, "No, the last part." And I repeated it, leaning in a little closer to his left ear. "I think Ted Cruz is an asshole, and you shouldn't lower yourself to his level."
I swear I thought he smiled as he said "I have no comment." To which I replied,"Nor should you, sir and thank you for your time," and hightailed it back to 26D.
I'd like to think Molly would have been pleased.
I for sure know I was pleased not to have uniformed personnel waiting when I emerged from the walkway into Newark International. In heading toward baggage claim I only looked back once. No one was tailing me. The senator, the bodyguard and the Amazon were long gone.