When the Oregon legislative session of 2015 opened, Eugene Weekly embarked upon the bold experiment of establishing a delivery route in Salem. Each Thursday I traveled there, my first stop was the Capitol, where crowds in costumes and uniforms campaigned colorfully for their causes.
The Salem experience was thoroughly enjoyable. As the final month began, I wondered how I could top the fun, and decided to meet Kate Brown.
To that end, I climbed the stairs to the governor’s office, portraits of past governors solemnly following me with their eyes. With some trepidation, I passed through the open door. At a desk on one end of the spacious waiting room, a friendly young woman greeted me.
I asked if there was a chance of meeting Governor Brown.
Other young workers soon gathered to talk about “their” Kate Brown in hushed tones of respectful awe. Yes, she does pop out to meet her fans, I was told. If I came early in the morning, it might be possible to meet her.
Each week, I showed up a little earlier with no luck. On the last Thursday, a state senator beat me to the governor by only minutes. There she was on the other side of the door listening to some boring senator drone on when I just knew she would have much more fun talking with me.
The young woman handed me a photo, “I told the governor how much you wanted to meet her. She said she’s sorry, but there hasn’t been time, so she signed this photo and asked me to give it to you.”
Well, at least I tried and I got to sit in the governor’s office watching the people come and go. All in all, an entertaining show.
The final day of our grand experiment arrived. I journeyed to Salem to gather EW’s racks and red distribution boxes and bring them home. After a long, hot day, I came to the last box I needed to collect. As I wheeled it down the sidewalk on a dolly, something remarkable happened.
Three women turned the corner walking toward me. I moved the box to one side to let them pass, the tall one nodding a thank you as they entered a deli.
Wait a minute! The woman in the middle looked a lot like … Kate Brown.
But was she? Or was she just a woman with a string of pearls? I could not be sure. It happened so fast.
I loaded the box into my truck, squeezed in the dolly and slammed the tailgate. It was time to go. My Salem experience was over. But maybe, just maybe I had one more chance to meet the governor … or a woman with a string of pearls.
I returned to the deli. Inside, a cool air-conditioned oasis, a moment suspended in time. The woman with the pearls sat at a table, her tall friend standing nearby.
As I oh-so-casually approached (heart pounding), our eyes met. Still unsure of her identity, I said, “You should be in a Kate Brown look-a-like contest.”
The woman smiled, “I would probably win.”
“Then, you are?”
She assured me that indeed, she was.
All the profound, witty and wise things I had imagined saying to the governor flew out of my head, and from the vacuum, which was now my mind, blurted the words, “You’re doing a great job, and I look forward to voting for you.”
She shook my hand and rather thoughtfully said, “Thank you.”
Not long after, Gov. Brown announced her intention to run in the next election. When I recall that thoughtful look in her eyes, I have no doubt I was the final grain of sand tipping the scales in her decision to remain our talented and gracious governor.