Joe Biden and me

Back in the day when biglaw was  my professional home, I was a road warrior.  United Airlines loved me – I still have one of those ‘million miler’ logos on my membership card.  And I was a global services member which elevated my travel still further.  It was heady, I admit.  I share this only to put the story in context.  Why would I be in first class flying from Frankfurt to the US?  Why would someone with a carnation in his lapel come on board to welcome me into my seat and thank me for traveling with United?  I’m tellin’ ya – crazy..

Our flight was delayed for reasons that were not made quite clear.  Unclear that is, until Joe Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hegel came on board.  They had been in Afghanistan and there was a problem with their plane.  So they were flying United.  And here I am, in seat 1A, one of only two people who had been pre-boarded trying to look  as bemused and nonchalant as possible.  John Kerry walks by, nods at me and sits behind me in 2A.  He immediately gets on his cell phone and calls…Ted Kennedy who was in Texas campaigning for Obama.  In a toneless and enthusiastic voice, he sang ‘Happy Birthday’, joked a bit and said his good-byes.  I thought that was so touching, and was debating the appropriateness of turning around and saying something; Kerry put his sleep mask on and remained stationery and inert throughout  boarding, take-off, etc…

Chuck Hegel recognized me, but couldn’t place the face.  Andy and I had seen him and his wife a few times at the movies.  He took his seat, took out reading material, and after take off, engaged a bit with the gentleman next to him.

Not Joe – Joe sat in his seat to eat, but beyond that was up and talking with everyone.  He was carrying a copy of the magazine ‘Country Home’ and told me that Jill told him he’d be in trouble if he didn’t come home with an opinion about some proposed redecorating project.  He laughed, he kibbitzed, so comfortable in his skin, so untouched by the mantle that he wore.  It was the most intimate and delightful flight of my hundreds.  Thanks to Joe.

When we landed at Dulles, we met again at baggage claim and he asked his Secret Service guys to grab my bag too.  As we walked out, my husband and son were there, Matt’s eyes wider than usual.  Joe asked if I wanted a Starbucks, and I declined.  I wanted to get home.  And so did he.  It was a courtesy.  Of course, Matt couldn’t believe I turned down the offer.  In retrospect, neither do I.

Yes there were times too, when Joe and I were on the same train heading to or from Union Station in his days as a Senator.  He knew everyone in his ‘usual’ car, every ticket collector, their families, their stories.  You could feel his affinity for others – and you just wanted to be around the guy.

Why write of this now?  Yesterday’s emotional tribute to him at the Capitol affected me.  To hear bipartisan, emotional appreciation for someone – for anything – was a moment’s balm during these unnerving times.  Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that it would be because of Joe.

And know what?  It doesn’t even feel presumptuous calling him by his first name.

C.S. Lewis said, “For what we see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing:  it also depends on what sort of person you are.”  Hey Joe, thank you for the time I got to stand with you.  Best.flight.ever.

54 thoughts on “Joe Biden and me

  1. I have always liked him. He’s real and unaffected. I haven’t seen his ego on is shoulder as I have in other politicians. Anyone who survived the personal tragedies he has and remained so upbeat is a very special person.

  2. I’ve heard you talk of Joe Biden’s warmth and wonderful spirit before, honey, and this brings it home so beautifully. I am awed by the guy–in the public eye for so many years and still so seemingly unaffected by the spotlight. Genuine, that’s the first word that springs to mind when I think of Biden. Even his social gaffes are endearing. And that series of Biden-Obama memes that’s been running of late–priceless. And leave it to you to be so modest about your encounter. *My* money says that Joe went home and said to Jill, ‘Honey, I just had the most delightful flight back from Frankfurt. I met this wonderful woman named Mimi Krumholz and she was an absolute delight — witty, warm, well-read, informed, engaging–you would have loved her!’ As we *all* do…. all there is…. xoxo, l

    P.S. Love the snow falling on the site. 🙂

    • Ah honey, would that your impression be so…my hunch is that he truly enjoys just about everyone he encounters and this is hardly even elevated into a blurry memory for him. But I love you – and I love you for even thinking such a wonderful (albeit different) conclusion to the story. xoxox, m

  3. Lovely story. Thank you for sharing it. Joe Biden has always seemed entirely genuine and deeply interested in the welfare of others before his own interests. Such a memorable flight that must have been!

  4. Never heard this from you, but not surprised. Similar to Joe Biden your interest and keen sense of people has been focused on me for quite some time. Great story Mim. I’m sure you have so many more and we have so much time left – I look forward to my first visit to your new home, cuddled by the fire place and ready to listen to stories of you; my dearest friend who always puts others first. Sounds a bit like the man on the plane. Love that you shared this.

  5. Wow, wow, wow!! What an awesome story, experience and re-telling of your interactions with such a great man. My dad loved telling (and re-telling, and re-telling…) a story where he got to sit next to Harry Truman (one of his heroes) on a flight once. It’s a good feeling (and that is in such short supply of late) to be reminded of that as I learn about your experiences. You described it so well, I almost feel like I was in 3A! oxoxo

  6. Mimi!!!! I just love this story ☺

    I have a similar one that took place on a flight from NY to Milan when I was supporting Dave Gordon and Bill Voge on a project finance deal that was closing in Italy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as lucky with my seat-mates – behind me on an overnight flight, I had to endure the non-stop and very loud and passionate chatter of Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson! OMG. There wasn’t enough alcohol on that flight to get me to fall asleep.

    Hope all is well, and that you have a wonderful upcoming holiday with your family. Hopefully one of these days we will be able to reconnect in person.

    Much love,
    Christine

    • Now that would have been an interesting conversation to eavesdrop on (with alcohol, perhaps)…:-) I so hope we see each other again one of these days. Wishing you and your family a joyous holiday season and send you much love…m

  7. Perfect post as ever Mimi. And Lori’s words nailed why. My view from the UK suggests to me that Joe Biden excels – and could have excelled at anything he ever set his generous mind to. Full of charisma, like his colleague the president. And.a.bit.like.you.xx.xx

  8. When I think of describing someone as genuine, Joe Biden comes to mind. What a wonderful story! Happy Holidays and peace and love in the new year to you and your family, Mimi.

  9. “Up in the air” with Mimi, George Clooney and Jo Biden! It’s good to know the man we see on the screen is the real deal. His humor, affection and endearimg personality would make any flight more enjoyable. Great post Mimi ✈️🛩✈️

  10. I follow your blog and while they are always a good read, this is the best. In our current time of so many negative comments being made by and about our national leaders, this was very uplifting and an affirmation of a wonderful man.

  11. Great post and I thank you for posting about your encounter with Joe Biden. My initial impression from hearing him speak and seeing him on TV was that he was warm, friendly and, a genuinely nice peon. An unaffected politican which is a rarity.You were so fortunate to have met him in person. What an honor.

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