March 24, 2015: I’ve been driving several hours, and I want a good cup of coffee but doubt I’ll find it at the McDonald’s I just passed. I like what I see and how I feel when I drive into downtown Tarrytown: shops, restaurants, and good energy. Maybe some of that Big Apple vibe going on, seeing how the train to and from Manhattan is not far from town. People come and go from the pretty storefronts. A couple gets into their car, parked outside a coffee shop. “Thank you, God,” I say aloud. I park, put coins in the meter, and head in hoping for a place to sit. Several customers are lined up along the counter, looking over quick-food options in the cases or studying the menu boards high above the baristas’ heads. There appears to be an empty table in the back corner. Maybe I can order from there? “Yes, seat yourself. I’ll take your order,” a waitress says as she heads to a table behind me, and I scurry to take my place.
At first I’m disappointed to discover a woman, tucked in the corner of the wall and the high-backed booth. She doesn’t notice me as she scrolls through her phone’s screen. A half-full mug of what appears to be a latte, a partially-eaten croissant, and a crumpled napkin are all that’s on the dark wood table. Within a few seconds, she raises her eyes in my direction — perhaps thinking her server is checking in — and I immediately know who she is. Even tho’ she’s wearing dark sunglasses, and her layered scarf is partially cupping her chin and jowls. “I’m so sorry,” I say, “I thought this table was free.” She smiles and gives a little shrug, as if to say, “No problem.” I’m not shy, and I’m very excited to be less than four feet from her, so I say, “You’re Hillary Clinton.” And, she dips her chin in agreement.
She still seems friendly enough, and I think, “Why the heck not?!” So, I sit down and scoot closer to her; snap my fingers overhead for the waitress; and order a large latte and a croissant. And, just like that — ’cause that’s the magic of fantasy — I’m dishing politics with Hillary!
But the meter’s running, and I don’t want to be too much of a pest, so I dive in: “I watched your news conference a couple weeks ago, when you were answering questions about your emails, and afterwards I pretty much shouted at you — actually, at the TV — ‘Don’t do it, Hillary! Don’t run!!’ I felt so sorry for you. Really, I did. I’m not sure why, because I’ve never been completely in your camp. I think you and your husband have done some iffy stuff over the years. But then again, who hasn’t?! I mean, I can only imagine from the news and TV shows like House of Cards and Scandal that politics is a tough, dirty business, and to get ahead — or, to get anything done — you have to be willing to do some pretty crazy shit. Stuff you probably never thought you’d do when you were just getting into the game. I watch those TV shows, and I think, ‘OMG! This is scary stuff!!’ A friend told me your husband’s good friends with Kevin Spacey, and he told Spacey that Washington is pretty much like his show.”
I’m looking straight at her now, with questioning eyes. It’s hard to read hers behind the sunglasses, but she’s not smiling anymore. After what feels like a long second, she returns to her phone. I’m not offended. I’m thinking, “You must be so tired of all this.” All this being people and their questions coming at her from all angles. That’s why I felt sorry for her when I was watching the news conference. She looked tired. Angry too. Some reports described her attitude as “Go to Hell!” That didn’t bother me, and I’m not so sure how I feel about her emails. But, if she’s going to run for president, she’ll have to answer to her followers. I know the press doesn’t like it when she doesn’t play nice with them, but I appreciated her being real. She’s definitely not the schmoozer Bill is. A lot of people admit she’s smart enough and tough enough to lead — maybe tougher than Obama — but, they feel she lacks something that endears her to a lot of voters. Well, I never cared for her husband’s schmoozy-ness, and “they” are mostly national press people who don’t like her because she doesn’t like them.
If I were her, I’d be having a serious talk with myself: “Why would I want to put myself through this again? Why don’t I just enjoy time with my new granddaughter? Who am I doing this for? For the party? I am the Democrats’ strongest contender. But heck, I thought 2008 was my time. Timing wasn’t in my corner then, and maybe not this next election either because people are probably ready for the Republicans to take over.”
I practically shout at her: “I think our party system sucks! For one thing, I hate that we only have two major parties to choose from! Seriously, this lack of choice is so wrong when you consider that there are over 20 different race and ethnic groups in America, and that a majority of voters call themselves Independents.” She seems interested in that comment; then again, I can’t really tell if she’s reacting to that or to whatever’s on her phone. I drink my latte and tear off a bite of my croissant. Good stuff. I look around the coffee shop and remark, “This is a nice place. And, it’s off the beaten path … I can understand why you like it. But, I am surprised to see you here today, since you were at the White House yesterday. Private jets must be nice.”
I continue, “I guess you know that Ted Cruz has declared his candidacy. He’s way too right-wing for me. I don’t agree with his positions on Obamacare and immigration. But, I do agree with him about simplifying the tax code. He says “abolish the IRS,” but I can’t see that happening. Can you? Seems too extreme. Still, maybe what’s in place now needs to be completely dead before something else can take its place.
“Also, about Cruz … He has very little legislative experience and no international experience, unless you count where he was born. Ha ha.” I glance her way, for some affirmation of my little joke, but she seems to be even more focused on her phone-feed. “He definitely doesn’t have the political chops you and Biden have.” That seems to get a rise from her, but she could just be surprised about some text or headline.
I look at my watch. Damn! I hope I didn’t get a ticket! I gulp the last of my coffee, wrap the rest of my croissant in my napkin, and look over my tab as I slide out of the booth. I’m pulling bills out of my purse and say, “Forget what I said earlier. I hope you run. I’m not sure I’ll vote for you. I can’t just vote for you because you’re a woman. Although, it’s definitely time we women have a turn at it. Yeah, I know there’s some up-and-coming women in the wings, but you’re the leader.” I pause to wonder how awesome it would be to have more than one woman running in the next election, then continue: “Anyway, I believe you could be a great president. You’re probably the best person to improve on our national health care program; you have the legislative experience; you have foreign experience, and God knows we need someone who can work with the Israelis.”
I take a breath. She’s looking up … at me? Or, is she just pondering her future?
“Anyway, you gotta get past the national press. You gotta learn to let their stupid comments about your hair, your clothes, your body, your marriage roll off your back. It ain’t right, but I think you should continue to do what you did in Washington yesterday. It’ll deflect their attention, then you can talk about something more important. You’re smarter than them, and you know it. And, if the emails come back to bite you in the butt, well … I don’t know, but I bet you’ll figure it out.”
It feels like I’m talking with one of my daughters or a girlfriend. She’s smiling again.
“By the way, my favorite look of yours is when you were Secretary of State, and you wore those black-framed glasses. Because of your concussion, right? But also, the press was catching you au naturale — without any makeup and a soft, loose hairstyle, and it was easy to see how happy you were. You looked real.” I lay my money down on the table and say over my shoulder as I leave, “I wish you all the best.”
Next stop: Princeton, New Jersey
* “Coffee and dessert” by Kathy Weber: downloaded from (Tarrytown) Coffee Labs Roasters Facebook page.
For my follow-up chat with Hillary, over cocktails, click here.