I had an interesting experience this past Sunday. I was traveling from Austin to Houston to catch a connecting flight. After having my boarding pass scanned I walked down the jet way and ended up behind a fellow who was a couple inches taller than I, probably 6’4″.
We did not speak and boarded the aircraft, yet I recall there being something distinctive about the man. Not quite a sense of someone I knew, but something different. He was carrying a simple plastic shopping bag, such as you might get at a book store and was dressed neatly, but simply, in slacks and Navy blazer. Just another businessman traveling on a Sunday.
I remember thinking he had probably played football earlier in life and then thought nothing else of him, except when I passed him as he wedged his frame into a coach seat in row 8 or 10. I had an exit row seat, which is still too small for me and I remember thinking ‘that guy is going to be uncomfortable as tall as he is – good thing it’s a short flight’.
After docking in Houston (when everyone rushes to stand up – so they can wait another 10 minutes before debarking) the lady in front of him turned around and started tossing a dozen different questions at this man. I didn’t catch her questions, only the opening of her first question : “Senator Shelby…” and it hit me why he stood out – I had seen his face before, just not in person.
What struck me was here was one of the most politically powerful persons in this country – flying coach (and not even in an exit row).
Several minutes later I was on the transfer platform to catch the rail to another terminal and Senator Shelby walked up and stood next to me. I told him I had overheard a bit of their conversation and understood he was one of our Senators. He said he was and introduced himself, shook my hand and asked my name.
We chatted a bit and l learned he was on his way to Louisiana because of the oil spill. I remarked that I was intending to write his office after seeing him on the flight. I was impressed to find him traveling more or less incognito – just a regular person flying coach. His response was something along the lines of ‘Well, I represent and serve the people’. The implication was simply that he’s one of us and flying coach is what you do when you serve the people.
I wished him well and I did write that letter. It is good to know we have a few leaders who ‘get it’ when it comes to the role they fill. Quite a perceptual contrast to so many others – on both sides- in the Congressional Leadership.
Senator Shelby – Thank you. By your example, you help restore some of my confidence in those who represent us in Washington.