Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Floating Feather

Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump. By the sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time, I've managed to run into or meet some famous people over the years. And, with the exception of two occaisions, I wasn't looking for them - they just sort of showed up ... or I ran into them - literally.

The late governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, was giving a speech at a conference I attended at Lake of the Ozarks. I had to participate in a phone call to the office and ended up missing most of his speech. Afterward, I was rushing off to another part of the conference, rounded a corner of the building and all but collided with the Governor. He was obviously startled but, probably realizing I was a registered voter, regained his composure, stretched out his hand and offered a friendly if tentative hello. Guess he didn't know I voted for the other guy. I didn't tell him, either.

Once, at an auto show in Chicago, I saw Muhammad Ali and his entourage. It was back when he was still in the ring. They say the camera adds pounds, but not in Ali's case. He was much bigger, much taller and much stronger than he ever appeared to be on television.

Airports are great places to hobnob with the rich and famous. While waiting between flights at varous airports, I've spotted the likes of Joe Namath, Bart Conner and Dr. Christian Barnard. I also ended up seated next to Rep. Roy Blunt - twice.

One of the two times I sought someone famous was at another conference I attended. This one was in Atlanta and Elizabeth Dole was a keynote speaker. After the speech, several people went up on stage to meet her so I joined them. She was nice. Warm, friendly, conversant, looked us square in the eye and greeted us with both her hands extended.

The other time I sought someone famous when when I was twelve. Bobby Kennedy was running for president and was visiting my hometown. My folks took me to the street where his motorcade was slated to pass. I was painfully shy in those days, so it must of taken everyone by surprise when I ran after Kennedy's car hoping to get an autograph. In what seemed like a surreal moment that passed in slow motion, I reached out and Kennedy reached back. I couldn't quite keep up with the vehicle but I remember we made eye contact, his famous hair seemed lighter than it did in photographs and our fingertips touched just before the secret service agent in Bobby's vehicle gently pushed me aside and the motorcade moved on.

I don't travel as much or attend as many conferences as I did during my human resources career, and I have no desire to chase any motorcades. So it's not clear whether I'll run over other governors or spot athletes in airports in the future. But you never know when the wind will blow that white feather in your direction.