Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, August 20, 2007
This summer I took a flight to Washington DC, which meant making a connection through Detroit Metro Airport. Oh, there is a direct flight from Grand Rapids to DC. One might ask why I didn’t take advantage of that. But then one might also have had the experience of laboring for hours with maddening websites and hopelessly worn-out customer service representatives to figure out how to use one’s frequent flyer miles for such a purpose. And one would then give up before one’s bile and hatred backed up further into one’s throat and choked one to death. (I’m seriously considering cashing in my 90,000 miles for the alternative crap they offer — paper weight, tea cozy, $20 Applebee’s gift card, whatever — but I dislike the idea of Northwest Airlines winning.)
There. Now that I got to complain about something I can tell you that the flight experience itself went well. In fact, the only thing remarkable about it was that, as I started to mention, I flew from Detroit Metro to DC and who was three rows in front of me but our very own senior US Senator, Carl Levin. Senator Levin is a frumpy irascible curmudgeon perpetually peering over half-moon reading specs and sporting not so much a comb-over hairstyle as it is a wind-up. Honestly. It’s like a mini-turban. I’m not quite sure how it stays there. I didn’t detect any barrettes, shellac, or staples. I mean no disrespect — I’m truly curious. As a bald man who aspires one day to be a frumpy irascible curmudgeon, I’d like to know the secret.
But the reason this is remarkable is that Senator Levin was flying with us common folk in coach, not first-class. It was heartening to know my Senator was slumming in steerage with the rest of us riff-raff, sharing the countless indignities such as finding a small space in the overhead to store away his already wrinkled suit jacket. He was cordial but obviously wasn’t there trying to collect votes. He sat down and immersed himself in his own business just like the rest of us. And not once did he solicit me to join him in the restroom for a homo-erotic encounter, which apparently is not a courtesy all US Senators extend to fellow travelers.
Did you ever fly with somebody famous? Tell me about it!