The camel hair coat

[This is the second post in a series. For a little background on the thinking behind this, please read this.]

My second job after graduating from college was working as an intern for a local advertising agency. The people there were very kind and made a real effort to help me learn the basics of their business. One of the accounts we had at the time revolved around some early efforts to reform health care at the state level. For this effort, the firm organized a press conference in the office of Governor Tom Carper, and so one grey, wintry morning I drove down to Dover with some colleagues to help set up for the event.

Our group arrived well before the event was due to start. I helped carry in boxes of brochures, posters, easels, and all of the other props necessary to launch this initiative to an array of reporters and interested individuals who would soon be arriving. The governor himself was off at some other event, so we spent almost an hour arranging things in his office. In this interval, it began to drizzle outside, so when the governor did finally arrive, with very little time before the event’s scheduled start, he strode into his office and seemed a bit startled to have so many strangers there. I was closest to the door, and clearly the most junior, so after he removed his very handsome – and very damp – camel-hair coat, he handed it to me. In turn, I ducked into the outer room and asked the ladies there where I should hang it, and one of them scooped it up and whisked it away. I was happy to be of help, and it was such a small thing, that I really thought nothing of it at the time.

The event went smoothly, and shortly afterwards I left that firm to pursue work in Washington. My second job in the Capital was working as an intern for the Government Affairs Department of Amtrak. One of the jobs they assigned to their interns was the task of babysitting the various board members whenever the board convened. As Amtrak’s headquarters is in Union Station, which is full of people and distractions, the board secretary felt that having someone urge the board members towards the meeting helped ensure the meetings started on time. And so, about a year after my press conference in Dover, the board secretary approached me and asked, “you’re from Delaware, right?” I said yes, and he then asked me to meet a certain Metroliner on a certain track, and escort Gov. Tom Carper up to the board meeting. It was another cold winter day, and I stationed myself at the end of the platform and easily recognized the Governor’s tall figure among the crowd disembarking from the train. I identified myself and did my best to steer him through the station’s quieter passages to speed him  towards the meeting. We rode the elevator up together, and then went down the hall to the boardroom, when he paused, removed his very handsome camel-hair coat, handed it to me, and disappeared into the meeting.

A year later, at my next job in Philadelphia, it was both a relief – and a mild disappointment – that Gov. Carper did not appear out of nowhere one day, hand me his handsome camel-hair coat, and then continue on his way.


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