Summer in the Waiting Room: Chapter 3 (excerpt #25)

Marisa and Erica get Sen. Hillary Clinton's autograph at a 2008 rally in San Jose. (Sandra & Eddie García family photo)
Marisa and Erica get Sen. Hillary Clinton’s autograph at a 2008 rally in San Jose.
(Sandra & Eddie García family photo)

That same fall, I applied for an appointment to an open seat on the high school board and worked hard to get the votes needed to ensure victory. After three elections losses, I finally became a public policymaker. I shared my story with students in the economically and ethnically diverse district that included my alma mater to inspire and encourage them to work hard, dream, persevere and believe in second chances. I was working around the clock with my dual duties as a Comcast executive and school board trustee.

On one occasion the two duties intertwined when I was on the east coast and airlines were cancelling and delaying flights due to bad weather.  I planned to present a new policy proposal for the school board to discuss that night.  Originally scheduled to take an early morning flight, I was scheduled to arrive in time for the 4:00 PM executive session and 6:00 PM public meeting where I would introduce my proposal.

My flight from Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. to San Jose was canceled and my desperate attempts to secure another flight, even on any other airline, were unsuccessful.  With time running out, I took a taxi from Reagan Airport to Dulles International Airport.  During the 35-minute drive, I frantically called airlines in search of a flight that would get me home in time for the vote.  Finally, at Dulles, I was able to secure the last seat on a flight that was scheduled to connect in Las Vegas for the final leg to San Jose.

The flight would arrive around 7:00 PM, so before departing from Dulles, I called the board president and requested a delay in the proposal until I arrived.  Sitting in the middle seat of a cramped plane only added to my anxiety about missing an opportunity. The connecting flight in Las Vegas was also delayed, but I was determined to get to the school board meeting. Once the plane landed in San Jose, I drove directly from the airport to the board chambers to introduce my proposal.  It was almost 9:00 PM when the board discussed the proposal and shortly thereafter approved it unanimously.

Although I enjoyed the adventure and adrenalin rush both high-profile positions offered to me, I hadn’t realized that I was neglecting the diversions that had balanced my life. I no longer buried my nose into a good biography or followed the NCCA basketball tournament to its inevitable exciting conclusion. I couldn’t remember the last San Francisco Giants game I attended that didn’t include a business and relationship-building component or a movie that I could enjoy with Sandra and the girls.

Most apparent, I wasn’t spending time just hanging out with the larger Peralta family.  Sandra, her parents and sisters, and we husbands had always been close. We baptized each other’s children and gathered frequently at the Peralta’s house for no other reason than to be together.  There were the weddings, the family parties, the college graduations, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and News Year’s Eve that also kept the bonds strong.  I had rationalized that I was still fully engaged through the holidays and major family events, but in reality, my career and my public life had taken center stage.

What I was missing were the bull sessions and drinking beer with Mr. Peralta around the barbecue pit on a lazy Saturday afternoon, the “honey-do” home improvement projects and customary beer drinking afterwards with Eddie, the ballgames with Pancho, and the conversations about business and politics with Miguel. I wasn’t keeping up with the family stories and gossip I so enjoyed with Mrs. Peralta, Valerie, Kimberley, and Shelley. My dizzying work and school trustee schedule kept me occupied.

The Comcast executive salary provided a lifestyle that I could never have imagined. I was able to take my family on vacations to the east coast, Hawaii, and Puerto Vallarta.  We even took mini-trips to Santa Fe and the Grand Canyon, and weekenders in San Francisco and Monterey. I was speechless when my father-in-law proudly and emotionally walked onto the grounds of the White House on a tour I had arranged. When Senator Hillary Clinton visited San Jose for a rally during her historic presidential campaign, my family and I had access to seats next to the stage.

I had reasoned that these opportunities made up for missing day-to-day family interactions. I had reached the apex of my comeback and the college failure demons had been destroyed.  I was an executive for a large corporation who traveled throughout the country to represent the company’s interests and I was a trustee for a large school district. The political bug had bitten me again and I was poised to take it as far as I could. With a small group of supporters, I started to map out a strategy to prepare myself to be a future candidate for higher office.

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