MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This week, in his final remarks as speaker of the House, John Boehner insisted once again that he's...
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JOHN BOEHNER: Just a regular guy, humbled by the chance to do a big job.
MARTIN: NPR's Will Huntsberry went to Boehner's usual breakfast spot to find out if there really are places where a speaker can be just a normal guy.
WILL HUNTSBERRY, BYLINE: I got to Pete's Diner on Capitol Hill just before the sun came up.
GUM TONG: Good morning. How are you?
HUNTSBERRY: The diner's owner, Gum Tong, says she and her staff have been making the same breakfast for John Boehner as long as she's been there - at least 15 years.
TONG: Regular standard eggs and sausage, that's what he always have.
HUNTSBERRY: What do you call him when he comes in here?
TONG: All of us call him John-John. None of us call him House speaker - never - nobody calls him by that.
TOM MANN: At Pete's, everybody is pretty much on the same level.
HUNTSBERRY: Tom Mann is one of the regulars who just happened to eat their breakfast with the person second in line to be president of the United States.
MANN: When John would come in here, he'd be wearing, like, a T-shirt and a baseball cap. So he was just one of the regular neighborhood guys.
HUNTSBERRY: Eighty-five-year-old retired Navy Capt. Phillip Bush ate with him, too.
PHILLIP BUSH: He's very easy to talk to, and he knows your name after one meeting. He's pretty damn normal (laughter).
HUNTSBERRY: Politically, Bush is a little to the right of Boehner.
BUSH: If I have a political problem, I'll bring it up with him. But I don't usually have that much disagreement with him. I'll miss him being in here, though.
HUNTSBERRY: Why is that?
BUSH: He's sort of a regular here, like me. And, you know, you get to know people.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No coffee for you?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: No, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No? Thank you.
HUNTSBERRY: When Boehner comes in, he sits at the end of a long counter, a few seats away from the older guys. He usually sits next Rob Poirier, who makes it a rule not to bring up politics.
ROB POIRIER: There's other senators and congressmen that come in for breakfast in the morning. And, you know, he talks to them and then comes sits with me, so that's how it is.
HUNTSBERRY: Poirier is 51 and works in construction. A tattoo peeks out of the edge of his polo shirt.
POIRIER: We talk about golf and fishing. And he'll ask me, you know, how I am and family and - which is nice. It's good for him; it's good for me.
HUNTSBERRY: When Poirier met Boehner three years ago, he didn't even realize who he was. They just started talking. But Poirier's mom now loves to remind him he's friends with one of the most powerful men in American politics. Poirier says he was relieved when his friend decided to call it quits.
POIRIER: You know, he would come in in the morning and I'd say, you know, you look worse than me today. You know, so I think it was time for him. He understood that. I think he's just tired.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I'll have the sweet potato pancakes, please.
HUNTSBERRY: Poirier told me about this time when Boehner asked him to come over and help him put together a wardrobe. He says Boehner was a follow-all-the-directions kind of guy. And Poirier just wanted to put the thing together.
POIRIER: I give him a hard time about his construction skills.
HUNTSBERRY: But he says it's moments like that when Boehner is at his best.
POIRIER: It was just a lot of fun to be crawling around, you know, on the floor with him putting this cabinet together and just, you know, laughing and having a good time about it. You know, I told him if he needs a job, we could probably find him something. We'll buy him a hammer and, yeah, put him to work.
HUNTSBERRY: So when Boehner really is ready to just be a regular guy, there's an offer on the table. Will Huntsberry, NPR News, Washington.
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