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Q. What is it like to travel sitting next to a celebrity?

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ustokes

End of November 2015, I was travelling back from NY to DC on Amtrak. It was few days before thanksgiving, and a lot of people were travelling, so it was packed. A lot of people were boarding the train, and I walked down to one of the last cars because I saw people lining up in the aisle waiting for other people to put their bags in. I got into the car, and was looking for good place to sit, didn't see anything. So, I sat on the first seat that was open.

Right opposite me was this guy. White hair. Glasses. Maybe in his 60s, working on his computer. I'm thinking he looks a lot like a politician, but I couldn't recall his name.


I'm sitting right across him. I mean we are like this, except the we have cellphones and computers instead of crayons


I'm where the mom is. He is where the girl in the white shirt is. A woman is where the girl in the blue shirt is. Him and I were playing the kid of footsie you play with strangers where you accidentally brush their feet, but no one mentions it, because it's awkward.

He was kind of goofy. He had his bags on the seat. The conductor came around and told him to put his bags up. He's apologized but then he's like "Yes, you are the boss!". I got a bit annoyed at him for giving the conductor some attitude. Then there were bomb sniffing dogs on the train. A cop came around with his dog in front. The guy saw the dog and went "hey buddy!" and started petting the dog. The cop said in a stern voice "Please don't!" The guy realized his mistake and must have apologized to the cop 20 times. The cop came back after his round and said "Look! I understand. You are a dog person, right? It's almost instinctual". I am thinking that this is a really nice cop

2 hours into the ride, and a little out of Baltimore. He talks on his phone "Andy. This is Al". I'm going Al Al Al. Holy shit! I'm sitting right next to Al Franken. I googled his name up and checked his photo. It was the same guy. Next thing I did was update Facebook. I know he's a big progressive guy, and wanted to say something semi-intelligent to him, except that I have no idea what he has been doing. I could have googled it up, but as luck would have it, my phone went out of battery as soon as I posted on Facebook

So, I sat there silently. The girl sitting next to me was talking to me about not being able to charge her phone too. She had an accent. He asked her "Where are you from?" "Ukraine" "Sorry about the Russians" "Yeah!" "Those bastards!" "They are bastards". She probably didn't know she was taking to a US senator. I am thinking "Hey if I say I'm Indian, he will apologize to me about Pakistan or something" but I kept quiet. I'm a smart aleck only when I'm behind a keyboard. In front of people, I stay quiet.

Then a guy who recognized him came and set across the aisle and talked to him about politics. The guy was in school to be a lawyer, and apparently he is in the same school that Al Franken teaches in. I didn't know Al taught at Georgetown

Then sometime later he calls his friend again, and starts telling him about this piece his writing about Ted Cruz. I'm like Al Franken is writing something funny about Ted Cruz right now in front of me. How cool is that?

20 minutes later, he looks up from his computer at me. I'm scared now. "Did we cross Philadelphia?" "We cross Philadelphia a while ago" "Where are we?" "We passed Baltimore" "Baltimore!" The lawyer student guy said "We are 10 minutes away from DC". Al Franken is like "Where does the time go?" I guess making fun of Ted Cruz is really engrossing

After reaching home, I was thinking about it. And the most surprising thing is how he's like a regular guy. If you don't know he's Al Franken, you wouldn't know he's a US senator. I mean he was in Amtrak like the rest of us. No body guard. No entourage. Just working on his Mac and talking on the cellphone like the rest of us. And he's a nice guy too. He apologized to the conductor for keeping his bags on the seat. He apologized to the cop for messing with the dog. He apologized to the woman next to me for Russia. He played stranger footsie with me. He could have asked me to move, but he didn't.