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prematurely grey - Post for My Father

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Post for My Father

Just got off the phone with my dad. Here’s the basic gist of the conversation:

“Write that in your blog.” “Put it in the blog.” “That’s exactly the kind of thing you should be writing.” “I don’t see why you’re not writing this in the blog.”

OK. I get it.

Denver was an overwhelming experience. It was like being on an Outward Bound solo. If I made it, I’d complete the course in advanced politics/film/history that apparently I’ve been on the past six months. In some strange way, I didn’t know about the course. I thought I was passing as a PTA president, learning to survive while not expressing my political opinions. I was practicing being normal, not learning how to navigate and contextualize historic events.

So, here’s one experience I had in Denver, with apologies to the 17 of you who follow me on Twitter.

I met Nancy Pelosi.

I didn’t meet her in a big group or because she was at the Emily’s List reception or because some well connected person, whom I just happened to know for seven seconds, introduced us.

I met Nancy Pelosi because I am friendly in the ladies room.

I am the kind of person who complements women when they’re looking at themselves in the mirror. I admire dresses and necklaces and shoes. It’s a moment of severe self-criticism, when nothing can done about poor choices made at home or difficult moments at the table. It’s a vulnerable moment, one for tiny adjustments, quick touch ups, and deep breaths.

And it all happens in too small a space with unflattering light.

On Tuesday night, I didn’t have a credential to get into the Pepsi Center. Trina, my roommate from Princeton, was long gone to Boulder, and the high of seeing Hillary, Pelosi, and Michelle Obama at the Emily’s List reception was over. I was alone, exhausted, and very hungry.

I went into a little restaurant on Larimer, the block with the San Gennaro festival lights and the flags of 50 states (and those non-states that get to have primaries too–we’ll talk about that another time) hanging across the street. Osteria Marco. You walk downstairs to tables lined by heavy wooden chairs. I found a corner spot at the bar, met a friendly lawyer from Denver, and started to think that coming might not have been a complete mistake.

To get to the ladies room, I had to walk by, around, really, a woman planted in the narrow hallway. The telltale clear plastic old fashioned telephone cord  ran down one side of her neck. Secret Service. They were everywhere in Denver. Even on the way to the bathroom of a basement restaurant.

The ladies room was unusually dark with fantastic outstretched frog/harlequin wallpaper. The stalls were to the left of the door and the sinks to the right. It was, perhaps, the cutest, most awkward ladies room I’ve ever been in. No room for a purse on the pedestal sinks. You had to put it on the floor to get out your makeup or your evening scarf or your four inch platform leopard peep toes. Seventeen and In Style and Vogue never tell you exactly how you’re supposed to make this crucial transformation from day to night. They seem to assume that you’ll have all the room in the world to pull the superhero switch.

As I walked out of the stall, I had to maneuver around a woman hunched over two open bags. Let’s call what she was doing freshening up. It involved paper towels and a clean blouse. As Chairwoman of the Ladies Room Welcoming Committee, I said that I’d done what she was doing many times. A simple truth.

She’d just arrived at the restaurant directly from the airport. Where are you from? Houston. Houston? I’m from Austin. I used to live in Houston. What do you do? I’m in art education. Really? I work on education policy in Texas (OK, a stretch perhaps, but forgive me. Plus, I know more about education policy in Texas than anyone should have to know who’s not actually writing it.) Do you know, Rice University, blah blah blah as she zipped up her bags and walked out ahead of me. This hallway was single file only.

Why are you here in Denver? Are you a delegate? No, I’m here with my family. With my mom. Who’s your mom?

I didn’t have to ask, because at that moment, the Speaker of the House was standing beside the lady linebacker.

There was Nancy Pelosi, arm around her daughter, telling her something about the table.

After all the training I’ve had from my dad, I had to do it. I couldn’t give Nancy Pelosi a quiet moment with her daughter. I reached out my hand. She shook it. I told her how much I’d enjoyed the event that afternoon. And then I added that I’d seen her at Netroots Nation in July.

Wasn’t Al Gore wonderful? asked the Speaker of the House.

Yes, he really was, I agreed.

Me and Nancy Pelosi. Al Gore fans. Who knew?

OK, Daddy. Maybe a little more information about the ladies room than you needed to know, but I hope you’re happy. And thanks for the cheerleading.

Comments 9

  1. george-ann hyams wrote:

    I love this piece — and it has reinforced my resolve to always talk to interesting people in ladies rooms.

    Posted 01 Sep 2008 at 5:35 pm
  2. loperguy wrote:

    Somehow I’m going to have to figure a way to get into the Ladies Room…more interesting people then the crowd hanging around the Men’s Room…By the way, this is exactly what I was asking for…now how about Ray Nilan or whatewver his name is…sounds like a real peach of a guy.

    Posted 03 Sep 2008 at 4:16 pm
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