So, on the way down to Ferrum — the location of the first event — we stopped at a Wendy’s in Moneta. It was mainly for a bathroom break, but to travel with Tom is to realize that no stop at a fast food restaurant is ever complete without him ordering something.
We were the only people in the joint, except for the manager and four young teenagers who were working the late shift. Tom introduced himself, and they were all pretty excited to meet their Congressman. He ordered a smoothie of some kind, and there was much debate behind the register of whether it was okay to charge their Congressman full price (apparently, the issue had never come up before). Gift rules be damned, they finally settled on a manager’s discount of about 30 cents as the proper recognition of the moment.
Then the manager says, to much laughter, “Do you ever have to work with four teenage boys? You should work here for a day and see what we go through.”
“I’ll do it,” Tom shot back. Contact information was exchanged, and we were back in the car and on our way.
But here’s the thing. Meeting their Congressman made these folks’ night. You just know they went home and said to their husbands, parents, whatever, “You’ll never guess who came in here tonight.” They’ll have a story to tell for a few days.
You know, these folks did not seem like they cared one way or another about the political battles we obsess over daily, about the minutia of health care reform, of earmarks, or budget deficits, or tax breaks for millionaires, or whatever.
But their faces were absolutely beaming as they spoke to Tom.
So the next time pollsters tell you that Americans don’t like their government, don’t believe it for a second. What folks want is a human connection to their representatives.
Sure, if you’re a lobbyist with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, I guess it’s no big deal.
But it’s scenes like the one I saw tonight in a Wendy’s in Moneta that remind me what a great country we live in.