No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

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The gravy train came to an abrupt halt once we pulled into our second internships.  No congressional daily calendar, no free receptions, no unlimited salad, and breadsticks.

I became the unidentified target of a sign in the break room chastising the person using too much of the communal half and half.  Side eyes would follow me out of the room as I took an extra Krispy Kreme chocolate iced donut with Kreme filling on payday.

My gluttony knew no bounds.

About a week after Election Day I immediately volunteered when there was an open spot at an in-house luncheon.  My eagerness probably tipped everyone off as to who was bogarting the half and half.

I was surprised by the media circus covering the luncheon.  And by the media circus, I mean one stationary C-SPAN camera and its operator.  I don’t even think the cameraman stayed the whole time.  He would come and go when it was time for an audience pan.  This type of event is C-SPAN’s bread and butter, a formal speaker and podium style speech.  Still, I thought it was incredibly cool.

I was one of the first to arrive.  Buffets are usually put out in advance, and I learned if you get there early enough, you can have one lunch in private, leave and go to the bathroom, and return when everyone’s arrived for a second helping – no one the wiser.

Today this plan backfired.  The speaker was Lamar Alexander, who had run unsuccessfully for President two years earlier.  Not a huge draw, but a big name nonetheless.  Blue Bell executives were already there glad-handling him.  No one had touched the buffet yet, so I still got the first pick of the sandwich selection.

Like every server who’s ever checked to see how your food turned out, Senator Alexander introduced himself just as I was mid-bite of my lunch.


Of course, he would work the room, why hadn’t I anticipated that?  I did the ‘cover my mouth with my left hand so my right hand can shake yours, but you now know I can’t speak right away because you unintentionally interrupted me while I’m eating and now I’m swallowing quickly so this moment will be over’ maneuver.

This is usually embarrassing for both participants, and each makes an unnecessary apology and apology rebuttal, “Oh, no.  My fault.”   Each offers a big smile.  Then, inevitably, the participants start talking at the same time.  The apology carousel goes around again.

Eventually, he was able to introduce himself and asked who I was.  Sizing up my importance, he quickly moved onto someone else.

I reflected on our time together.

Was he wearing eyeliner?  It looked like that thick black eyeliner that Michael Jackson had permanently tattooed above his eyeballs.

I’m pretty sure the gentleman from the great state of Tennessee doesn’t have eyeliner tattoos, but maybe he had some Maybelline in that briefcase of his.

One of the Blue Bell trustees introduced the Senator.  She made a few personal comments on how she was glad she was forced to learn English when she arrived as an immigrant in America.  Oh god.  It was a race and diversity speech.

Identity politics don’t fit well in the Blue Bell conservative wheelhouse.  I couldn’t finish my lunch.

I recently found the C-SPAN footage of this event online.  It appeared at 2:41 am the next morning on C-SPAN2, the network’s equivalent of ESPN’s “The Ocho.”  Most of it is what you expect; an hour-long snoozefest with a grainy picture and slow neutral pans of the speaker and the audience.

I had hoped to get on TV.  Since buying my fabulous Inspector Gadget trench coat, I had been working hard on my new adult “look.”

C-SPAN wasn’t feeling my look because I didn’t get a close-up.

I’m the one on the right distancing herself from the conversation…

Late in the video, you can sort of see me in the back right corner, with my right pointer resting at my temple and my middle finger forming a V shape at my mouth.  This managerial-type gesture demonstrates just the right level of interest, while at the same time suggesting I might be taking issue with some of the comments.


Assimilation you say…


Q & A at the end.  Pre-arranged questions from the peanut gallery designed to make the Senator look quick on his feet.  A fellow raised his hand but didn’t have a question.  He only wanted the room to know that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would most definitely be a conservative.  Heads nodded in agreement.

It was enough to make me almost bring my lunch from home the next day.  Almost.

You can watch it all here:


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