One thing I love about life is you get a surprise almost every day.
Sometimes it’s a little one, like there being enough milk left in the fridge for a bowl of cereal, when you thought there was none.
Other days, you happen to meet the governor of New York and quite possibly the next President, shake his hand and have him tell you you’re doing a great job.
That was my Wednesday. Never would’ve predicted it.
Here’s what happened: As I mentioned yesterday, I got incredibly fortunate during Hurricane Sandy; no loss of power, nothing. But since so many around me in NYC weren’t as lucky, I wanted to do what I could to help out. So I went to three different evacuation shelters Wednesday morning, trying to volunteer to assist any way I could.
All of them told me they had plenty of volunteers right now, but I should come back later, at night.
So around 7:30 p.m. I arrived at the evauation shelter at Hunter College on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and for the next several hours learned how to do lots of things, like heat up a military ration meal (MRE), which was super cool (I may have burned my fingers doing it the first time, but by the 6th or 7th time I was nearly an expert).
Around 9:45 p.m. our coordinator told us we were going to start shutting out the lights and letting the 200 or so temporarily displaced residents who were sleeping here get some rest.
Only 15 minutes later, the lights were still on. When I walked outside in the hallway, I heard a few of the security guards buzzing and saying things like “He’s coming here now?”
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, was coming by the shelter in about 20 minutes. He’d been in the city all day surveying the damage from Superstorm Sandy, and now he wanted to talk to volunteers and shake some hands and meet some of the people displaced.
As a sports journalist, meeting athletes didn’t excite me after a while. But as a political junkie, meeting politicians still seems cool to me. And I’m a big, big Cuomo fan. I think he’s done very good things for New York, his father is a liberal Democratic legend, and I think i four years Andrew Cuomo will be the Democratic nominee and succeed Obama as President.
But that’s all for the future. In the present, Cuomo and a few aides strolled in a little after 10:15. He walked over to the volunteer table and shook a few hands. Immediately, I tried to think of something clever or witty to say to him.
But honestly, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about what to say is what I said. When I shook his hand, I said “Nice to meet you Mr. Cuomo, and thank you so much for getting the gay-marriage law passed in New York.”
OK, maybe it was a goofy thing to say. But that was SO huge of an accomplishment, and affected so many lives, that I just had to say it.
In the few minutes he spent with us, Cuomo was exceedingly gracious and kind. There were no cameras around, much to my surprise (politicians love doing this kind of thing for the cameras), but I guess someone from his staff snapped the photo (above) and put it on Twitter.
He has a reputation for being stiff and aloof, but again, my first impression was that he seemed genuine.
After about 25 minutes, he thanked all the volunteers by name and then stepped into the elevator that a police officer had been holding for him the whole time.
And just like that, we went back to passing out blankets and explaining which subways would be running on Thursday.
A memorable evening in more ways than one.
**So it sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s true. A blind man in California was issued a regular driver’s license recently.
**Finally, not sure if I’ve ever put this video on the blog before, but after seeing a lot of devastation Wednesday, it sure put a smile on my face. The scariest waterslide video you’re likely to see… man this should be a new sport!