Tea with Bill Clinton
Kansas City, Missouri
I'm with Tom Daily, a handsome bloke some several weeks younger than myself, but with silvery white-hair, as opposed to my rusted grey.
We're in a cafe on the Country Club Plaza, it's mid-afternoon on a Saturday. We've cleared our dishes, but I'm still nursing some ice at the bottom what had been my glass of tea. We're full. We're fat. We're happy.
A woman steps over. She's middle-aged. She's well dressed. It's a little on the colorful side, but not weird, really. She's wearing makeup and her hair is, I guess you could say "coifed."
What I'm trying to say is, she's gone to some trouble to look nice, certainly more than Tom & I have. I'm wearing jeans and a black t-shirt with a pirate flag on the back; and he's wearing shorts and a t-shirt declaring his allegiance to Tottenham Hotpsur.
Plus, it looks like she's done it all correctly. Her lipstick is on straight. Her hair looks tidy. She's wearing a nice dress, not a t-shirt for some football club that hasn't won a league championship since 1961. She doesn't look crazy.
However, she is a little, well, animated. Her hand gestures are over-sized. Her voice is louder than it needs to be. It's not like she's shouting, but no-one in the room is missing out on what's she's got to say, which is:
"I know who are!"
And she's super excited, showing this bright, red smile and hazel eyes that are just pleased as punch to see Tom.
"You're Bill Clinton. President Bill Clinton! Hillary Clinton's husband and I just want to thank you. I think it's just terrible the way you were treated. And I'm going to vote for her and ..." ... and she keeps going like that.
And I think we both think she's kidding and Tom & I are both laughing and enjoying her enthusiasm, but Tom's also demurring. Trying to get in a word or two, edgewise, maybe something along the lines of "well, yeah" and "I think he was mistre...." and "no, no, I'm not."
But he's been caught by surprise, as you might expect. And while he's been trying to figure out what to say, she's been attaining a certain velocity, so he really doesn't have much chance of handling this as gracefully as he'd like. Still he finally works in a "no, really, I'm not Bill Clinton," but not until she's found her way back to her booth ... which isn't very far removed.
And Tom's still treating it like a joke, because what else can it be? And I'm thinking she's a great joker and laughing, too.
But she says, "You all are poking fun at me ..." and I look over to see she genuinely seems hurt or offended or both and she continues "... and laughing at me. But I know who you are."
So I say, trying for some appropriate mix of gentle and firm with no condescension -- which I don't know if that's really possible -- "No ma'am, I've known this guy for many years as someone other than Bill Clinton. But I'm sure he takes this as a compliment. I know I would."
And she settles down for a bit, then wanders over to the line where people are ordering their coffees and pastries and such, and she entertains them with a discussion of what a beautiful day it is (which it is) and how she hopes everyone is enjoying it (which they are) and she does a little dance for them which involves a brief wiggling of booty but nothing really outrageous or provocative.
Tom & I, in the meantime, get up and get ready to leave. This takes me a little longer -- I have a motorcycle jacket and helmet to gather -- and she comes back by, on her way to her booth, and says to Tom, "It's not my fault you're so good looking."
He says, "Thank you."
And on the sidewalk, heading back over to Unity Temple, I start teasing him.
Seriously. How do you not?
"Ahhh, Mr. President!" I say, " You know, she's ... umm ... a little ...."
"Well, he says, "I don't like to dismiss anyone who says I'm good looking as 'crazy.'"
So, I shared with him the story of The Good Dr. Rapidfire.