Friday, July 01, 2005

O'Connor Ready To "Loosen Up"

After 24 years as a Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O'Connor will be able to finally "loosen up baby" as she had been advised by former Redskins running back John Riggins at a White House formal party given to honor the Redskins Super Bowl XVII win. After that remark, Riggins and O'Connor names have been linked for nearly as long as she sat as a justice. John had a way of making a lasting impression on every one he met. Even me.

But this story isn't so much about Justice O'Connor retiring, as it is about her moment of consternation she experienced with John. For over twenty years I have not been able to think of O'Connor without thinking of John Riggins and the moment of consternation he gave me.

Why? (Circa 1976?) I had the opportunity to serve (first part-time job out of high school) John one day in a little bar in a small town near where John and I both grew up in Kansas. The bar was so small that I bartended and waited the tables. It was a freezing afternoon during Thanksgiving week. The place was empty except for me (happy hour hadn't started yet). Then the door opened and JOHN walked in. And scared me half to death. He was dressed in biker leathers and was sporting his mohawk doo that was his trademark at the time. He was huge and looked larger than life and two of the guys that followed him in the door were just as big (but more "normal" looking), the last guy in with them was tiny compared to them (but thankfully, someone I knew). The other three were dressed in hunting clothes and they later mentioned that they had been pheasant hunting. Now imagine that, hunting in biker leathers...

John walked up to the bar and ordered a round grinning from ear to ear. As I rushed to fill their order, he announced he was ready to shoot some pool. As I reached across the bar to give him his change he grabbed my wrist, leaned over and picked me up (and over the bar) and said, "Hi, my name is John. What's yours?" It's a good thing our mutual friend knew my name, because I was speechless and nearly in a faint dangling in the crook of the arm of this huge mohawk sporting leather dressed man. With a wild look to our friend for help(?), all I could do was gulp and hope for the best. I am sure that I had turned as white as ghost and my eyes were nearly popping out of my head and my head was whipping to meet John in the eyes, while casting beseeching looks at our mutual friend who was nearly on the floor laughing. Our friend finally managed to spit out, "Kathy this is John Riggins - an old friend of mine - he plays for the Washington Redskins - he's ugly as sin, but he won't hurt you."

So, I guess I got an early (less refined) version of "loosen up baby" when John said, "Well, Kathy it's nice to meet you. Aren't you the cutest little thing? Too cute, to have to wait on us and have to WORK. Don't worry, I won't drop you." And he didn't - not for the nearly two hours that he and his buddies were my customers. Not only did he not drop me, my feet never touched the ground as he managed to either keep me perched in the crook of his right arm (did I say his neck was massive?) or on his lap the entire time he was there. When they needed a refill he carried me to the bar and stooped down to let me retrieve the beer from the cooler. And as he left, John (he never did play pool) settled up their tab and said keep the change. My tip was two months rent for me. He walked out the door and I never saw him again in person. But I became an instant John Riggins and Washington Redskins fan (and still am to this day).

Did Sandra "loosen up" after meeting John? Your guess is as good as mine, but based on her voting record she didn't stay a strict conservative for long. Did I? You betcha. I now can say, thanks to John, I have never met a mohawk sporting man dressed in black leather that I didn't like.

posted by Is It Just Me? at 2:58 PM