Friday, March 10, 2006

Exclusive: Blumenauer Flies Coach!

Hi folks, I'm back in the greatest state in the Union. Discovering today I'm eligible for 5 days of "funeral leave" was poor consolation for having to take that leave, but my personal life is surely of the most fleeting concern to dear readers. You just want news and comment!

Uh, so whaddya want--a serious, in-depth topic? I just got back; cut me some slack. Carla did a great job of holding down the fort, and it looks like she inspired some active commenting. That's awesome news; as long as you're not a complete crank or purely abusive, bring it on. We can handle it. As Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island declared in 1776 on the motion of debating independency, "I ain't never heard of nothing so dangerous it couldn't even be talked about!"

And speaking of legislators, this minute item to get me back into the blogging groove...OK, it involves the very same personal life I discredited above as uninteresting, but it's also a brush with celebrity!

Waiting for our flight back to Portland from Northern Virginia's Dulles airport, I was standing at the gate counter to get seat assignments. My eyes wandered among the assembled, and stopped on a gentleman in a crisp grey suit and even crisper multicolored bow tie. He wore a red Bicycle Transportation Alliance bicycle pin, and was fumbling with his boarding papers.

As he moved past me to get to the line for boarding, I spoke up (probably a little too loudly, as is my unfortunate custom) and said, "Hello, Congressman!" His reply was "mmrrfff," not having removed the boarding pass from his mouth, and he seemed to cringe a bit at the recognition. Recovering, he took the paper out of his mouth and said "Sorry, hello!" It's probably just me, but I sensed that he feared having to put on his Congressman hat (would that he actually had one; can you imagine what kind of figure he'd cut in a bowtie AND fedora?), so I let him pass without any further discussion.

He appeared to be boarding among the first 'guests' allowed on the plane, and I assumed that he was heading for the safety and relative privacy of a cushiony first class seat. Imagine my surprise when a scan of the section revealed no Congresspeople, bowtied or otherwise. Indeed, I found Mr. Blumenauer settling into an aisle seat in the middle of the plane with the rest of the rabble, wearing the trademark high quality headphones of a frequent traveler and thumbing on a Blackberry. I resisted the urge to disturb his wonkish reverie for the duration of the flight, and thus ends the extent of my interaction with Portland's federal legislative representation.

Having read on Friday in USAToday of the burgeoning culture of flights provided on corporate jets by lobbyists and business interests as a matter of routine courtesy, it's notable enough to see Blumenauer on a commercial flight at all. But to endure the indignities of a 5-hour flight among ordinary Americans, forced to bring on food or pay $8 for a box of barely edible crap, and wait to pee in a line lengthened by the failure of one of the coach lavatories--such acts truly make Dapper Earl a Man of the People. I only wish I still lived in his district, so I could vote for him again, along with the other 70-odd percent of his constituents. Keep kicking against the pricks (or at least the prick in the seat in front of you who just reclined all the way back while you were trying to eat), Congressman!