In 1970 I was a flight attendant for American Airlines based at LaGuardia field in New York. It was such an exciting time to be living in NYC and I loved flying and all the travel it provided-- free passes and all of that. I also loved politics. It was my minor in college and I loved discussing politics with anyone who would listen.
One day I was working a trip from D.C.'s National Airport (now known as Ronald Regan Airport) to Boston’s Logan airport. We were preparing the airplane for the passengers when a gate agent came barreling down the aisle in the coach compartment to find me in the galley.
“We’ve got a VIP coming on board and he’s going to be sitting in coach!” he said excitedly. As a new flight attendant I always worked in coach, and we rarely had any VIPs in the back of the airplane. So, I couldn’t help but be mildly excited.
“Who is it?” I asked. “Senator Ted Kennedy,” the agent responded. The Kennedys always sit in coach.”
OMG. Senator Ted Kennedy? I almost fainted. I was the biggest Kennedy fan outside of Massachusetts. I loved all things Kennedy -- their politics, their family legacy, and our shared passion for sailing. But more than anything I was excited about the opportunity to discuss politics with the senator. Now was my chance to dispel the myth of the airhead flight attendant. I’d approach him and talk to him about the pocket veto currently before Congress. It was going to be great.
Ted was the first passenger boarded and he went to the very back of the airplane in the “A” seat on the port side. I kept thinking now’s my chance, before everyone gets on board and we get busy. I’ll just go back there and start chatting about that Pocket Veto Bill. We'll have a brief but intellectually stimulating conversation. It'll be great.
I made an effort to approach slowly so he wouldn’t think I was a raving lunatic fan. I formed the words I’d say in my head. I got to 23 A, 24 A, 25 A then... Senator Kennedy. He looked up at me with a questioning smile. I opened my mouth and (in a squeaky voice) said, “Going Sailing, Senator?” He answered with a smile and a nod “Yes, Ma’am.”
GOING SAILING, SENATOR?!?!?!?!? I wanted to die of embarrassment! Where did those words come from? I missed my opportunity for a nice chat with my favorite senator! I was mortified.
The flight was only about an hour but I couldn’t risk going back to him again as my mouth seemingly had a mind of its own. After we landed at Logan I locked myself in the bathroom just in case I was tempted to speak to him on the way out.
But the one thing I’ll never forget is the twinkle in his eye, the smile on his face, and the fact that the only person who made me feel foolish, was me.
Thanks for the memory, Teddy. And God Bless.
-Pam (The Real Estate Mom)
photo credit: Yachtpals.com - "Ted Kennedy Back at the Helm"
-Ted Kennedy, Senate's Liberal Lion, Dies - NPR