Driving Miss Debbie

On the last day of my internship I was called into Congresswoman Dingell’s office, ostensibly to present a briefing on the legislative project on which I’d been working all summer. My partner and I delivered our spiel on legislation that could help protect survivors of domestic abuse by tightening firearm restrictions for abusers. The Congresswoman seemed mildly impressed, but appeared to have something else on her mind.

“What are you doing for the rest of the summer?”

The question directed at me caught me somewhat off guard, as I was fully prepared for an onslaught of questions related to the substance of our briefing (which did in fact come later). I informed Rep. Dingell that I had made plans to work at my local Racquet Club to try to scrape together some cash before heading back to school. I still can’t believe what she said next.

“I need another driver in Dearborn for the August recess. Would you want to come work for me?”

I literally bit my tongue to prevent the words, “do bears shit in the woods?” from escaping my mouth. Fortunately, I managed to spit out a, “yes, absolutely, thank you so much” before being harangued over the nitty gritty details of our presentation.

I arrived at the Dearborn office at 9 am the following Wednesday ready to report for duty. I’d had little interaction hitherto with the district staff, but was pleased to find them every bit as cordial and knowledgeable as the D.C. office and knew I’d have no problem fitting in here. Armed with a government phone, a new job title and a payroll stub, I felt ready to tackle my first day of driving.

I know now that no amount of preparation could have possibly prepared me for the whirlwind experience of driving Congresswoman Dingell. In all my life I have never met any person with as much energy and passion as she. She is awake most days before 5:30 AM, kisses her husband, former Congressman John Dingell, goodbye at 7:00, and usually doesn’t get home until 10 or 11 PM.

In the last three weeks I have driven Mrs. Dingell to town halls, union meetings, a motorcycle rally, heritage festivals and more farmers markets than I care to count. On multiple occasions we have driven from Dearborn to Detroit, from Detroit to Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor to Dearborn, Dearborn to Downriver, Downriver to Dearborn, and then to Ann Arbor and back all in one day. I end those days completely wiped out, and I’m just a driver: I have no earthly idea where she musters the energy to maintain that schedule seven days a week.

I write this as I prepare to drive Mrs. Dingell to a town hall with Congressman John Conyers and Senator Bernie Sanders. Can’t wait to feel the Bern from the parking lot.

 

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