Spotting a celebrity on your flight is something cool to tell your friends about, but it's not really an extraordinary experience. After all, most famous people can't afford to fly private to get everywhere they need to be. What is unusual, however, is seeing a former US president file through the aisle of a commercial Delta aircraft, shaking hands with his fellow passengers before taking a seat in the same civilian aluminum tube that's whisking you all to Washington, D.C. Yet, that's exactly what happened to passengers on a flight en route from Atlanta to The Capitol last week.
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Flying to the funeral for his former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in D.C. last Thursday, 92-year-old former President Jimmy Carter chose to walk through the main cabin of a Delta aircraft to shake hands with everyone else on the flight, before eventually taking his seat in First Class. In a handful of cell phone photos and videos captured by people already buckled into their seats, you can see the jovial one-time peanut farmer -- sporting a snazzy bolo tie -- stopping briefly at every row, smiling and making small talk, with a Secret Service detail in tow.
Evidently, this isn't out of the ordinary for Carter, who holds the distinction of having the longest post-presidency in US history, at 36-plus years. He's been spotted taking time to say hi to people on many commercial flights he's taken in the past. In fact, he did it on the flight that ferried him to the Capitol for President Trump's inauguration back in January. Carter has been shaking hands of fellow passengers for decades, and "enjoys it," a spokeswoman told the Associated Press.
In an interview with the local Atlanta CBS affiliate, passenger James Parker Sheffield explained what it was like to watch the former President pull off the impromptu meet-and-greet. "It's hard to put into words what a nice reprieve from the current political theater this moment was. His enthusiasm was authentic and humble, in a way that made things feel less heavy for a moment," he said.
As of this writing, the video of Carter that Sheffield posted to Twitter has been liked and retweeted over 51,000 times.
In an age when the bulk of news about flying (and frankly, presidents) is downright depressing, it's tough to argue this isn't a nice respite from the drumbeat of downer stories.
h/t CBS News
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