The Rachel Maddow Moment

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Rachel Maddow was trying to get to work. She only had to get from the glass door of her doctor’s office to the tinted-windowed S.U.V. that was idling at the curb, waiting to spirit her to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, but there was a hitch. Maddow had torn three ligaments in her left ankle — fishing accident — and one of those ligaments ripped off a piece of her bone, so now she was lumbering toward the sidewalk, her foot strapped into a boot, her lanky body bent over crutches that creaked and boomed with every hit to the sidewalk. In Manhattan, this had the effect of a kind of ritualistic drumbeat, alerting every liberal within earshot to her presence.

A woman with a graying ponytail suddenly wriggled into Maddow’s path. “Rachel,” she said, extending her phone to secure a selfie for a friend in Oregon who watches her show every single night and was going to bug out when she saw this. Maddow smiled for the camera as a man in long shorts planted himself 20 feet away, holding his own phone up horizontally to film the scene. When he saw Maddow see him, he smiled and waved slowly, as if he were a proud relative capturing a milestone. Farther down the block, a woman screamed something incomprehensible in her direction. As Maddow finally neared the curb, a woman with silver hair and chunky glasses materialized at her side and said with blasé familiarity: “I don’t know what happened to you, but I just want to say I love you. Keep up the good work. Can I give you a hug?”

Maddow balanced on her good foot. She spread her crutches out to accommodate the stranger’s embrace. “What’s your name?” Maddow asked brightly, as if she had hobbled out expressly for the purposes of saying hello. “Emily,” she said. She made a perfunctory gesture toward the silent bald man next to her. “This is Ed, my ex-husband.”

“Big fan of yours,” Ed said, and he went in for a handshake, which Maddow was eager to meet until she discovered, midreach, that her ankle could not make the pivot to a second greeter. “Whoa,” Maddow said. “No twisting! Sorry!”

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