GIFT OUR LEADERS QUEST TO DC – Day Three by Paul Menconi, DC correspondent

Day three, Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Now Wednesday is the day, the day the Senators have their coffees with constituents and a few minutes to talk to the Senators after.We headed up to the coffee hosted by both Senators from Montana. Real coffee, real pastries; we got a chance to chat with a number of staffers, some of whom we’d had in-depth discussions with the day before. Then, finally, our 15 seconds of fame as we were posed with Senators Baucus and Tester.

Next we went to Sen. Angus King’s coffee, and muffins made by a staffer with blueberries from the Senator’s state, Maine. We’d had a really great, and extensive, conversation with Kay Rand, the Senator’s chief of staff, the day before. Sen. King (I-ME) is truly a fine man, and committed to people – and Senators – working together. Paula and I had 15 seconds of fame with him, too, and said hello to his chief of staff, Kay. She actually recognized us, and even asked where Delia was.

Delia, it turns out, was at a different coffee (so much going on! We had to split up). She attended a function put on by Joe Manchin, Senator from West Virginia and co-chair of NoLabels, an organization of citizens and members of Congress working towards cooperation and collaboration in congress. (We see them on Thursday.) Sen. Manchin invited us to ride in the “Senators Only” elevator on Monday, so we already had a brief encounter with him. But Delia had a lengthy and very productive (that’s the phrase they always use, isn’t it? “very productive”?) meeting with one of Senator Manchin’s senior staff.

Next was a photo opt with Sen. Barbara Boxer, from our state CA. Being from a large populous state, we were among 100 people waiting to have a picture taken with her. We clean up pretty well, don’t you think?

We all met up again, compared notes, decided to skip lunch (not the Senate Cafeteria again!), and split the remaining books, determined to visit the final group of Senators and finish up.Sure enough, by two o’clock we were done. We shot a quick video, with students on spring break clattering away in the background, and headed over to Union Station (the major train station in Washington, a few blocks away) for some decent food.

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Well, not quite done. One Senator, and only one, refused to accept the book – or anything. The receptionist insisted that we must take our book to the Congressional Acceptance Site, a couple of blocks from the senate buildings.

This left me a bit unsettled. Strictly speaking, we’d done what we’d set out to do: we had visited every one of the 99 Senator’s offices (Sen. Kerry has not yet been replaced), and left books with the staff (and in a few special, and totally unexpected cases, had been able to hand a book directly to the Senator). But still, there was one as yet undelivered. So I said, OK, you two go get some lunch. I’m going to see what I can do with this last one.

The Site was only a couple of blocks out of the way. It was a bit of a strange experience. The building was low and utilitarian, not the sandstone and marble edifices we’d been in for three days, with a temporary look about it. I had to get buzzed in through the locked door, and spoke with a woman behind bullet-proof glass. I stated my business, and showed my ID, put the book in the plastic bag I was given. I faced the camera to have my photo taken, placed the bagged book on the table to have it photographed, then double bagged it, and put it through the X-ray machine, before finally opening the “Senate” door (there was a “House” door, too) and dropping the package (now no longer just a book, double-wrapped as it was) into the basket for eventual delivery. I assume…
Then I headed over to Union Station for a celebratory lunch with Paula and Delia. DONE!

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