Our local newspaper has a reader generated section featuring a number of recurring themes. One of them is called "My Fifteen Nanoseconds of Fame". The theme is stories about readers' chance encounters with famous people. We Minnesotan's have a terrible inferiority complex so whenever we meet a famous person, it's a big deal. Some years ago, I had an encounter with one of my intellectual heroes, William F. Buckley. The story of our meeting made the printed version of the "Best of the Bulletin Board". I retell it now for you amusement.
Back when I still wore suits and ties, I was in Washington DC doing some promotional work for an insurance association. I had mistakenly fallen into a leadership role which took a great deal of time I didn't have for initiatives that never paid dividends, personally, professionally or for the industry as a whole. With my business concluded, I took a cab to Washington National Airport - this was long before 911- it's called Regan National now.
At that time, the boarding gates were arranged in a semi-circle at the end of a long corridor.
Passengers from the half dozen gates shared a common gathering area. As I awaited for my flight to be called, I spotted William F. Buckley. I admired his writing and loved his old television program, "Firing Line". This was back when there were small "c" conservatives and William F. Buckley was the dean of that school of thought. I couldn't help myself. I approached him like a groupie, realizing that I could not offer one bit of wisdom to a man of his intellect. I simply said 'hello' and told him I was a great admirer. He was very gracious. If you remember how disheveled he looked on TV, you should have seen the real thing; rumpled suit, little blood stains on his collar from a bad shave, yellow teeth, blood shot eyes, threadbare overcoat and very blotchy skin. He looked like someone who I might see pan panhandling on a street corner.
We exchanged a few pleasantries and I headed back to my area.
Later, when boarding, I was stunned to see Buckley being seated in first class. It was a non stop flight to Minneapolis. What on earth would Buckley be doing heading to such liberal country?
From my seat among the lumpen proletariat I saw Buckley reading a magazine. I wondered what it was. I assumed he simply knew everything. What did Buckley need to read? Whatever it was, I wanted a subscription.
When we arrived in Minneapolis, first class passengers de-planed first, so I lost sight of him. With the world's smallest bladder, I headed to the men's room immediately upon landing. Lo and behold who is at the urinal next to me but William F. Buckley. We exchanged a friendly acknowledgement. This time I asked him why he had come to Minnesota. Turns out he was the guest of the very liberal Hubert Humphrey Institute. Imagine that, liberals and conservatives used to be able to talk to each other.
We finished our business and went our separate ways. But to this day it's my claim that I am the only person I know who won a pissing contest with William F. Buckley.