Nicole Sandler is in for Randi Rhodes this week.
OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, as my trip to DC this week was pretty amazing!
I met some wonderful people from both the labor movement and the occupy movement (which really are one and the same, even if some of them don’t want to admit it). And, as detailed in my last post, I witnessed history, as I was in the senate gallery to witness some Bernie Sanders brilliance.
Perhaps the most telling episodes of my trek to the nation’s capitol both came from the man who is supposed to be representing me in Congress, Allen West.
On Tuesday, along with a group of fellow constituents from Florida’s 22nd district, I went to see my congressman. Unfortunately, most of us were denied a meeting with him.
We waited for West to return to his office for two hours, spending that time split between his office waiting room and the hallway outside. While standing in the office, I was stunned by the nasty attitude toward all of us from West’s receptionist.
I attempted to engage her in polite conversation by asking, “How do you like working for Congressman West?”. When the question went unanswered, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and thought that, perhaps, she hadn’t heard me. So I tried again.
“Excuse me,” I said. “How do you like working for Congressman West?”. She looked straight at me with a scowl and proclaimed, “I’m not speaking with you!”
Is this how a congressional staffer is trained to interact with constituents? After all, my tax dollars pay this woman’s salary. I was truly cordial to her, and she treated me with such disrespect that I responded by saying she was a bitch, and walked out of the office into the hallway.
While my exchange with the receptionist was happening, two “leaders” of our group were in one of the offices with West’s Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff and two Capitol Police (I still haven’t figured out why the cops were necessary..). West’s staffers decided that only three of our group would be allowed to meet with our congressman We countered their offer by saying that we all wanted to go in.
They finally acquiesced, and said they’d allow four – big compromise! But the staffers also said that the two “leaders” (in a leaderless movement, there are no leaders) had to be among them. The group voted on two more, and I was one of them
However, I was barred from entering because I dared to call the receptionist a bitch - an apt description given her demeanor toward me.
So, I didn’t get to talk with him on Tuesday.
But I did get another chance this morning! I had an 8:30 flight from Washington National airport back to Ft. Lauderdale. Imagine my surprise when I got to the gate and saw Allen West sitting there, waiting to get on the same flight!
I walked by him and said “Good morning Congressman”. He looked up and his expression was priceless. He stammered a “good morning” back, and I kept walking. But then I reconsidered.
I turned around and walked back up to him. I said, “I’m a constituent and a radio host. I’d love to have you on the air for an interview.” He replied, “You can call my office.”
I told him that his press person, Angela Sachitano, does not return my calls or emails, to which he replied “I know who you are Nicole, and how you spoke to my staffer.”
I attempted to tell him that I tried to engage her with polite conversation, but he cut me off and dismissed me.
I was not looking for a confrontation, so I walked away.
I was, however, overjoyed to see him stuffed in a coach window seat, with the largest guy on the plane in the middle seat next to him.
As I was in the front row of coach, I exited the plane before him, and went right down to baggage claim. I guess it’s just as well that he apparently didn’t check any luggage, or I would have given him the opportunity to diss me a third time, that time with a tape recorder handy.