It started out as your average trip to the airport. There was an older gentleman being forced to throw out his shaving cream, an athletic type on crutches with a knee brace getting felt up by those professional perverts at TSA who just want to grope your junk… and there were my shoes in a bin with my ‘Official US Taxpayer’ hat. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Until I was on the plane securing my carry-on in the overhead at 11A and I happened to look down the galley to see… my Senator.
He was looking around oddly… a little like a wild animal, a little like a guy waiting for someone to recognize him, a little like a guy trying to pick a better seat. The plane was basically empty and we were already at Zone 3 so there was plenty to pick from (that’s what you get flying direct from Lexington to New York; also, I should note here that there was no 1st Class. It was a communist airplane.).
He ended up sitting a few rows in front of me — 8C — and I thought about moving forward but, well, I detest talking to people on airplanes and I was pretty sure that’s not how Rand wanted to spend his next two hours either.
I figured I’d catch him in the terminal when we landed.
Or… if we landed!
Rand Paul had chosen the exit row. I watched the flight attendant ask him and the guy across the aisle if they were competent to open the door and help people out in the unfortunate event of an emergency. I thought about saying something, but didn’t.
If something went wrong my life was in the hands of a U.S. Senator who just one week before was fighting to slash funding to the FAA and had attacked flight attendants’ health and safety protections… at the same time he was voting to protect the G-d given Liberty of anyone who wanted to take down a plane with a laser pointer.
I thought about this as Rand enjoyed an adult beverage (or maybe that was an overpriced bag of pretzels he’d purchased) and soon enough we were on our descent, flying in on a wing and a prayer.
Coming in over New York’s harbor, I watched Lady Liberty fly past and looked around. It was another moment or two before everyone else started craning their necks as Lower Manhattan became clearly visible (to be fair, the Statue isn’t the easiest thing to spot if you haven’t seen it plenty of times before)… and at about this time Senator Paul, too, leaned to his side and watched the big city lights grow closer.
I thought about taking a picture of that, too. I had a clear line through the seats to see his cute little face, almost boyishly curious.
But I didn’t take a picture.
Because the flight attendant told me not to. Because I respect aviation safety and the job that these underpaid professionals do. Because the individual liberty of every-one on that plane demanded that I not complicate our final approach. I suppose you can blame “collectivism” for a lack of a picture here.
Anyway, we landed. Plane came to a stop. Safely. We got our bags and walked inside… or, well, I walked inside. Rand had checked some carry-on, so he and most of the others stood around in the cold waiting for some more underpaid (and unionized) workers to hand them their stuff.
When Rand made it inside he was in mid conversation with a couple guys who’d also recognized him. They were talking about the forthcoming film version of Atlas Shrugged. I walked up to him and told him I hadn’t wanted to bother him on the plane but could I get a picture with him. He shook my hand, asked my name, smiled and said yes.
And then I walked with him for a bit. They kept talking about the movie and I didn’t much care about it so I let them talk. Then Rand was explaining to them that The Fountainhead had been made into a movie years ago but, “it was a shame, it wasn’t very good.”
Which is true — the movie version sucks — but I’d always figured that was because it was a competent translation of the book. Anyway.
One of the other guys asked if they were going to remake it. Rand said he wasn’t sure.
“Would you want to star in it?” I asked.
He looked at me and gave a little laugh. He looked like he’d be happy to, but he said, “They’ve already made it.” (Which I didn’t understand since we were talking about a remake… was he not paying as much attention to this conversation as the rest of us?)
“You doing Letterman tomorrow?” I asked.
“On Thursday, yeah.”
“You gonna announce your candidacy for President?”
He laughed, “We got a book out.”
It’s true. His book just came out. It’s about how the Tea Party took over everything. “Yeah,” I said, “I know, but are you going to announce your candidacy?”
He laughed again. “No, I think it’s too early for that.”
Like give it a month? Or four years?
By this time we were on the escalator. No one else was talking… so I figured I’d continue.
“You got any jokes picked out for Letterman?”
He laughed again. He had a nice way about him. Much warmer than you get from seeing him talk on teevee. Friendly, personable.
“No,” he said, “you got any jokes for me?”
“I was trying to figure one out about laser pointers…”
He laughed again, a little laugh, self-deprecating. “Yeah…”
“But I don’t know where you go with that.”
“Me neither,” he said.
I sensed he was getting tired of all the questions… but still, no one else was saying anything and it’s awkward to ride an escalator in silence with a Senator. So I continued.
“You worried about Ben Chandler in 2016?”
He looked at me like I was speaking another language or like he had absolutely no idea who that was.
Chandler (you know, the Congressman?) told Ryan Alessi back on Valentine’s Day that Rand Paul would be “ripe for the picking” in 2016.
I clarified for Rand, “You know, Ben Chandler? Are you worried about him running against you in 2016?”
“I’m not thinking about that right now.” He was a little steely with that one, like he didn’t like my question. I was just filling silence, so I left it there and didn’t add my last thought — that maybe he’d be busy with a different campaign by then.
And that was it. We were at the bottom of the escalator and it was time to say goodbye. I had a bag to claim, he had a driver with a “Paul” sign standing there. I gave him a wave and said it was nice talking to him — and he agreed with a smile and a wave of his own. And I wished him luck on Letterman.
All in all, it was a pleasant conversation. Rand was friendly, open and for the most part engaged. I’d thought about telling him at the beginning that we didn’t agree on a lot of things, but that I like the way he handles himself… and that I genuinely believe he is the best thing to happen to the Republican Party in years, but sadly, that would’ve just wasted time.
So even though Rand Paul may not be making a laser pointer joke on national television tonight, and even though he won’t be announcing his Presidential intentions, we did learn that if they make a Fountainhead remake, Rand might be interested in pwning that quarry scene. And that Ben Chandler needs to work on his name recognition.
And that if you see Rand Paul somewhere, he’s totally down to chat and is a pretty pleasant dude.
Oh, and also that Rand Paul should totally, be it ’12 or ’16, make this his next campaign song:
Live an illusion, don’t let it fade and die
The game of life — win it and your love comes tumbling down
You’ll never be alone
This is your world — this is your world
Live an illusion, don’t let it fade and die