Harry Reid and Bananas

Two stories about my first boss

Matt Higginson
3 min readDec 29, 2021
My last week in the Senate

The two most well-documented idiosyncrasies of

were his shockingly dry sense of humor, and his abrupt endings to every phone call he’s ever been on. The stories from Reid World are legion. I’ll share just two.

One day in 2005, a fruit basket was delivered to his office in the US Capitol. I love fruit and the bananas in this basket looked especially delicious — suspiciously large, perfect, and ripe. I picked one out for myself just as Senator Reid was walking out of his office.

Me: Senator, check out this amazing fruit basket someone sent you?

Senator Reid: Hmm, they sent that to me?

Me: Yep!

Reid: Well what are you doing with my banana?

Me: I was just about to eat it. Doesn’t it look crazy good? [cradles the banana-like new born puppy]

Reid: But that is my banana.

Me: Oh, did you want it?

Reid (without even a hint of irony): No. I just don’t want you to have it. Put it back.

And then he turned around and walked back into his office.

I ate the banana.

In 2007, back in Las Vegas, I had offers to work for

and ’s presidential campaigns. Nevada was in the early primary window for the first time and apparently, talent was hard to come by. Senator Reid’s son was chairing Hillary’s campaign, and most people, including me, assumed Reid was supporting her as well — mobilizing support for her campaign behind the scenes.

I called to ask his advice even though I figured I knew what he’d say. When we spoke, he asked me two things. First, was to make sure I talk to his son (Hillary’s campaign chair) before I made my decision, and the second was which candidate I was leaning towards. I told him I wanted to join Obama’s campaign.

Reid asked me if I was worried that Obama was too green and inexperienced to run a successful campaign let alone serve as president, or that the public’s simmering enthusiasm would just be a flash in the pan once the rigors of the campaign snuffed them out.

I knew his words were posed as a question, but I assumed his message was, “here is why I think you are better off joining Hillary.”

A bit more sheepishly than my ego wants me to remember, I told him I was not worried about that. I thought Obama was the real deal. I thought he could win and I thought it would be good if he did.

He paused long enough that I wondered if the phone call had already ended before quietly muttering, “smart kid.” And then he hung up on me.

Senator Harry Reid will rightfully be remembered for his self amusing dry wit and other idiosyncrasies. Along with his impoverished childhood and unlikely rise to American power. Every obituary will include the same well-worn details; that he hitchhiked to high school, was an amateur boxer, once punched his future father-in-law in the face, and had a bomb placed on his family car by the Vegas mob for rooting out their corruption.

He was as hard-nosed and shrewd as any human I have ever known or read about. But he was also exceptionally kind and possessed a genuine empathy and interest in people who were powerless, marginalized, and could do nothing to advance any political motive he might have. Those stories are legion too.

American politics and Washington D.C. breed the most fake and transactional relationships in the world. In the midst of that, Harry Reid was the genuine article. A true original. As kind as he was cunning.

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