04/10/24 – Our group had to up and around early this morning for our Capitol Hill visit to meet with the rest of our Congressional delegation. Since we knew we had to change hotels on the last night of our trip, we needed to pack our bags and give them to the concierge to hang on to while we went on our hill visit. We learned Angus King usually holds a “Constituents Breakfast” in his office on Wednesday mornings when he’s in Washington, and one of his staffers makes some really good blueberry bread for it. So our group gets divided up into three smaller groups so we can all catch an Uber to Angus King’s office from the hotel.

Getting through security seems to go smoothly for us to start our morning, and since Angus King’s office is on the main floor, elevators were rendered a non-issue for the time being. When we get inside his office, many of us start shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries, and chatting it up a little bit with Angus King and his staffers. Once he realizes there’s a whole big group of us in there and that we’d be back later that afternoon to meet with some of his staffers to discuss Social Security reform, we gathered for some quick pictures from his publicists.

From there, we gathered at the Capitol Building for some more group pictures on our way to Chellie Pingree’s office. Many of us seemed to do okay going through security in this new building once we got there, although I’m beginning to realize just how much junk I have in my pockets and how long it’s taking me to get situated afterwards at this point. When we realized Chellie Pingree’s office is on a different floor, I hung back a little bit with some of the people who get a little antsy if there’s too many other people in a small confined space to try to put them at ease. Once everyone in our group has made their way up in the elevator, we all make our way over to Chellie Pingree’s office.

Chellie Pingree’s staffers are a bit surprised by the size of our group, so it takes them a few minutes to get the room situated. While we’re waiting, we notice a big rubber band ball on one of their desks. I guess each elastic that has been placed on this ball represents each of the staffers that Chellie Pingree has had while representing Maine’s First Congressional District. At least, that’s my understanding of how they told this story.

We went in to meet with Chellie Pingree personally to go over our presentation and discuss Social Security reform, and she seemed quite receptive to the idea, even if it appeared to be outside of her particular realm of expertise. Each of us are hitting all the right notes in all the right places as we plead our case to people in a position of power who can realistically help us achieve our goals, particularly around increasing assets limits and eliminating the marriage penalty. At this point, we’re two for two. We’re making good progress.

On our way back to Angus King’s office, I realized we were all gonna have to go back through security in that building again, even though we were just there that morning for the Constituents Breakfast. Now I’m beginning to understand some of the struggles other established travelers in our group have about going through security. By this point, it’s almost lunchtime, so our group has taken an alternate route to a different entrance at a different part of the building where we can stop inside a cafeteria to grab some lunch.

I’m bringing up the rear at this point, because I knew I was probably gonna take the longest getting through security, so I probably should have been closer to the front instead. But what I wasn’t counting on was one of the guards giving our group attitude for no apparent reason while they were waiting by the elevators for me to catch up. Had I known that was gonna happen, I would have been like, “You guys go ahead, I’ll catch up to you in a minute. It’s not you guys’s fault I have too much junk in my pockets.”

Monique, boy do I owe her one, she sees me struggling to put stuff back on and get stuff back in my pockets after going through security, so she offers me a chance to gather up all my things and put it all in her bag temporarily until we could catch up to the rest of the group. Initially, I was like, “I think I can handle it, but thank you for offering,” thinking I could hold off until I got downstairs to get myself situated. Then as we try going down the stairs to the cafeteria, I almost end up losing my pants halfway down, and in front of a couple of good-looking women, no less. That would have been embarrassing. At that point, I say to Monique, “Okay, give me your bag.”

We catch up with the rest of the group on our way to the cafeteria, and we’re clearly still not very happy with that one guard giving our group attitude. I felt all kinds of awful, like it was partially my fault for taking too long to get situated after going through security. But at this point, I’m getting hungry, and I will probably feel better after I’ve had something to eat.

After lunch, we make our way back to Angus King’s office to meet with his staffers to discuss Social Security reform. When we all gather inside a conference / meeting room area, it looks like one of his staffers already knows of us from previous engagements in Washington from prior years. So definitely a good sign. Each of us are totally nailing our respective parts of this presentation at this point.

After we finish, his staffers tell us that Angus King is very much interested in signing on to sponsor bipartisan bills currently on the floor in Congress to help resolve the matter in our favor. But since he normally caucuses with Democrats, he would need a Republican Senator to sign on with him. Apparently, people in Congress need to sign on to sponsor bills in pairs to achieve bipartisanship. At least, that’s how we understood it when they told us this.

We’re three for three now, and we have some down time before we can meet with Susan Collins in her office inside the Capitol Building, a meeting that came together in a very last minute fashion, and one that most of us didn’t think would even happen on our trip. I put some of my things in Rose’s bag for a bit while we’re all waiting around for something more to happen. So you can imagine our collective surprise when we find out one of Angus King’s staffers is taking our group on an impromptu tour of the Capitol Building, thanks to our friend Nancy Cronin at the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council.

So we follow our tour guide to the other end of the building, down the stairs, back to the basement to take the elevator underground. This Capitol Tour flies right by, like watching a retro Super Mario speedrun on YouTube. We see so much of the Capitol Building and so many different things along the way in such a short amount of time. And of course, some of us are trying to get some decent pictures of everything because it all looks so grand and majestic, and we want something to show for all the moving and grooving we’re doing on this trip, but we’re also trying to keep up with our tour guide and not get too far behind the rest of the group.

My phone rings during this tour, and it’s my pharmacy back home letting me know I’ll have prescriptions waiting for me after I come home from Washington. (Yay for auto-refills.)

By the time our Capitol Tour is over, our group is redirected to a different cafeteria, not quite as busy as the one where we had lunch earlier. A lot of us need to sit down for a bit and have something to drink before we get back on our feet again. While we’re resting, I find myself talking with Nancy and a few others for a few minutes about family planning and adoption.

On our way to meet Susan Collins’s staffers, more elevator hijinks ensue. I’m sorry, but just know if you get claustrophobic on an elevator, I see you, I understand, I care. At this point, it’s seventh inning stretch time of what has turned out to be a very long but very productive day on Capitol Hill. While we wait for a particular staffer to take us to Susan Collins’s office inside the Capitol Building, we notice a preliminary roll call vote taking place on one of the screens. I wish I could remember the exact wording, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with whether or not to go along with recent recommendations regarding emissions levels from gas-powered automobiles.

So our new guide finally arrives, so back on the elevators we go. We end up retracing some of our steps from our Capitol tour earlier that afternoon on the way to Susan Collins’s office inside the Capitol Building. As we’re waiting for her staffers to set up her office to accommodate our group, we learn that Susan Collins was one of the first to sign on to sponsor a federal bill currently on the floor in Congress to address Social Security reform, specifically regarding increasing assets limits and eliminating the marriage penalty. So we wanted to be sure to thank her personally for that while each of us hits our specific talking points during our presentation.

We’re all doing such a great job on this hill visit. Four meetings with four Maine Congressional delegates / staffers to discuss Social Security reform, three of them in a single day, including one that we didn’t think would even happen. And we’re all earning high marks on every single one. After our final presentation, Susan Collins shows us over to a nearby balcony with a breathtaking view of hustling bustling downtown Washington where our group gets all kinds of pictures.

When we finally make our way out of the Capitol Building, we realize we’re not too far away from Union Station, so we all start making our way over as a group. Some of us are taking more pictures along the way. When we’re just about to Union Station, we notice a few participants in, I’m assuming a Cherry Blossom pageant, judging by their pink sashes, including our own Miss Maine, who seems really happy to see some of us in town, even if it wasn’t necessarily for that pageant.

We have about an hour to grab something to eat at Union Station, then we have to catch the subway back to get our luggage at the Westin. Stupid me, I packed my Metro pass in with my luggage, thinking I wasn’t gonna need it again on this trip. So I needed to pay for another one. It’s okay though, I still had enough cash on hand that I could afford it.

I’m getting hungry again, so I decided I wanted a Baconator from Wendy’s. But I didn’t realize Union Station would be so busy after work let out on a weekday afternoon. The line for Wendy’s was pretty long by the time I got over there, and I was getting a little antsy. You would think if people know what they want to eat, they should move further ahead to keep the line moving. Anyone who’s ever traveled with me somewhere at this point knows I’m not always so pleasant to be around when I go too long without eating. I was told we had about an hour before getting on the subway in Union Station, and I’m pretty sure I spent about half of it in line at Wendy’s. But I was committed at this point. I waited this long, and I wanted my [expletive] Baconator. So finally, I place my order, and I swear, I was so relieved when I could finally sit down with the rest of the group and eat. I managed to finish my meal with a few minutes to spare before we had to make our way over to the side of Union Station to catch the subway.

Capitol Senate Subway
On the move.
The Group sits down with Rep. Pingree.
Meeting Senator King.
Senator Collins sits down with the group.

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