What does Virginia’s Commander-in-Chief think about the financial future of the Commonwealth? His new job as head of the Democratic Justice League? Is there a secret reason he really wants to ban smoking in restaurants?
Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: I messed up. Oh boy did I mess up. My alarm clock is brand new and I’m still trying to figure out why the snooze button and the off switch are so close together.
I was supposed to meet Governor Tim Kaine at his office at 9:30am. I’m thinking that I accidentally set the alarm for 9:00pm. Or maybe it was set to ‘radio’ and the volume was turned way, way down. Whatever happened, as I mentioned earlier, it was entirely my fault. I am officially a colossal idiot.
If any of you are thinking about scheduling an interview with the governor at 9:30am and then showing up at noon, be aware that he will have probably moved on to other business. As it turns out, he is a busy, busy man. I’m smart enough to know that he doesn’t just hang around the Governor’s Mansion updating his Facebook status, but I held on to a tiny sliver of hope that he might still be available. As I mentioned earlier, I am a colossal idiot.
What makes this even more painful is how hard it was to get the interview in the first place. I’d been trying for months, calling in favors from old friends, new friends and total strangers. There were more than a few people who specifically asked me not to “screw this up.” One young woman even suggested that this was my “last chance” to redeem myself as a “journalist” in this town. I laughed when she said that, but it turned out not to be a joke.
What does one do when one has dropped such an important ball?
One slinks away from the State Capitol grounds with a sick feeling in their stomach and goes looking for a turkey Reuben, that’s what. Then one sits alone in a downtown deli and flips through one’s notebook and reads one’s list of questions that one was supposed to have asked of the top executive of one’s home state.
One thinks to oneself, “That would have been a good question.” And, “Oh, if I could have only let him have it with that zinger.” And then one eats one’s rye bread and sauerkraut sandwich feeling like every person in the restaurant can smell the stink of absolute failure that surrounds him.
But then one gets an idea. It turns out to be a very bad idea, but at the time it seems absolutely brilliant.
I went home and grabbed a copy of the Verizon White Pages. I located the number for a “Mr. Tim Cain” and dialed the number.
Tim Cain – Hello?
Me – Is this Tim Cain?
TC – Yes. Who’s calling?
Me – I was just wondering if I could ask you a few questions. This won’t take but a few minutes. Half an hour tops.
TC – I don’t think so.
I review my questions and redial.
Tim Cain – Hello? (sounding slightly irritated)
Me – Mr. Cain?
TC – I really don’t have time for this.
Me – One question! Please, please. I promise you I am not selling anything.
TC – I’m really not interested.
Me – Why are you so committed to banning cigarettes in—
You’d be right in assuming that defeat piled on top of defeat feels even worse than just regular defeat. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like crying at that moment. I felt like dropping to floor in a heap and wailing like a gosh-darn baby. What was I doing? I had no idea. I knew perfectly well that the man I was calling was NOT the governor. I hadn’t completely lost it. Not yet at least.
It was time for Plan B (or C if you count the original interview as Plan A and the phone call as a very weak B). I logged on to the Governor’s web page. There’s a section you can click on that gives you his schedule for the upcoming weeks. Maybe I could find out where he was going to be and then show up and explain myself. Best case scenario, he would waggle his finger at me and then invite me into the limo.
“You have seventeen minutes,” he would say.
I wouldn’t even open my notebook. I wouldn’t need to because my plan would depend on connecting with him right away, making such an impression that he would be begging to spend more than just 17 minutes with me. How would I do it? Research, research and more research.
I would read his biography, which was conveniently posted right there on his web site. Then when he was expecting some totally boring question about coal plants or bond ratings, I’d let him have it.
“You know Tim,” I’d say, “There are only two things I truly love in this world: the outdoors and Catholicism.”
Naturally, he’d be impressed. He’d lean in just a bit closer. And right before he asked me to be his BFF, I’d tell him that “coincidentally, I was also born in St. Paul, Minnesota. My father, the iron worker, always used to say that ‘restaurant smokers are the worst people in the whole world.’ Except for Yalies of course!”
The only problem was that, according to his web agenda, he was traveling all week. Sure, I could just get in the car and go, but who’s to say that he doesn’t just post a fake itinerary to fool the terrorists? Can you imagine if I drove all the way to Bristol, only to find out that he pulled a switcheroo and was back in Surry dedicating a new Wawa? One man can only take so much failure.
So I decided that if I was going to succeed, I would need to control ALL of the variables. I couldn’t leave anything to the fickleness of strangers or alarm clocks. That’s when I downloaded the governor’s hi-res photo, cut out the face like a mask and taped it to one of my couch cushions. I made tea for the both of us and switched on my digital recorder.
The interview went smoothly, thanks for asking. I chickened out of most of the tough questions. We strongly disagreed on a few points, but found common ground on others. I apologized profusely for missing our first interview and he told me not to worry about it.
“It happens all the time,” the Tim Kaine couch cushion said. “It happens to the best of them.”