Why you should care
There’s a reason your mother told you to always wear clean underwear.
It’s not every day that you have a chance encounter with a presidential candidate, especially on America’s birthday. But I had walked off an American Airlines flight from Phoenix to Dallas after spending the entire flight tending to my 3-year-old son as he experienced severe motion sickness. Despite several changes of clothing, I was still a picture of nonperfection and I looked tired, disheveled and didn’t smell very fresh. Moreover, I had one sock on and one sock off since my son had thrown up on my shoes as well.
And that’s when I walked past Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
For a freelance reporter, interviews with presidential candidates are difficult, if not impossible, to attain. But here was an epic opportunity and I was a mess — in old yoga pants and a stained T-shirt to boot.
However, instinctively, I turned around and walked back toward Sen. Warren. And then I hesitated. My confidence faltered. I did not look like a professional and I was worried I’d make a fool of myself.
I quickly apologized for my lack of grooming and that I most likely smelled like my son’s breakfast. A finer point on it: like vomit.
Then I heard my dad’s voice in my head and he said what he always does: “Life presents you with opportunities. You just need to know when to take them.”
So, I pushed myself and mustered up the courage to walk over and introduce the very dirty me to presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. I quickly apologized for my lack of grooming and that I most likely smelled like my son’s breakfast. A finer point on it: like vomit.
She smiled and immediately put me at ease, saying something like, “It happens to the best of us.” I burst out laughing. Maybe a little too loud, a little too long. But it had been a long, hard trip regardless of how short it had actually been.
After she introduced me to her team she asked, “Is your son ill or was it motion sickness?”
“I believe motion sickness. It was really hot leaving Phoenix and it was a super bumpy ride,” I said.
A conversation began. Warren told me how she had also dealt with motion sickness and gave me a few ideas on how to overcome and solve the issue. Then she also recounted how one of her own young family members suffered so much from it that her school said she wouldn’t be allowed on future school trips. Sen. Warren then explained that it was against the law to discriminate against a person suffering from motion sickness.
You know, I had never met Sen. Warren before. And yet she showed me empathy, asked questions, got the facts, showed me ways to problem-solve my immediate issue and told me how the Americans with Disabilities Act protected my son’s rights, if motion sickness were to become a long-term problem for him.
Then, much to my surprise, the next morning I received a personal email from Warren:
“Masada — I hope your son is feeling better. Motion sickness is no fun for anyone — mom or kid. Take care, keep smiling, and persist! – Elizabeth”
I was impressed with how quickly we connected and how she made me feel comfortable. In just a few minutes, Warren displayed a multitude of characteristics I believe a president should possess including empathy, curiosity, attention to detail and a willingness to help.
It was the human side of presidential politics, the person behind the platform. In a time when politics is anything but pleasant, my random airport encounter with Warren was a snapshot, a moment in time, where an experienced woman helped out another with solid advice on navigating life’s issues.
And speaking of snapshots, of course, I asked if we could take a photo together and, despite my momentarily questionable hygiene, Warren put her arm around me firmly and smiled.