Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I did something a little unusual today (at least by my standards). I actually cleared my schedule so that I could go get Sarah Palin's book signed at a local Costco. Now the last time I did something like this was when Tony Gwynn visited my wife's Gateway store and signed memorabilia. Since she was a manager there, I didn't really have to wait in line, but I got a little sense of the autograph line culture. Before that, I saw Dan Quayle's plane land at March Air Force base (1991), went to see George HW Bush at a fundraising event in a hotel (in 1988), and during high school, some buddies and I ditched school to go see Oliver North speak at an airport hangar. Now where you might see some sort of political pattern here, please don't be dissuaded from reading further (that is, if you're of the liberal bent). I'm trying to be objective here!
So as I got in line for the book signing, I found myself near the back of a line of about 1500- many of whom got there 4+ hours before me. I'm not that hardcore- in fact I had a meeting with a client in the morning and while talking, didn't really look at my watch because this book signing event was to be more of a curiosity than anything else. So I get in line right around 11AM and immediately, the Costco employee said "There's no way that you'll get her autograph". He repeated this to anyone else who got in line behind me. I was hoping that this would discourage many of the "weaker" liners but nobody seemed to be giving up hope- oh the audacity!
I'm very ADD so standing in a line is actually good for me because I can't wander around on the internet or flip channels or find another tangent to go off on. So I decided to document my play by play of the event. But the line moved very very slowly and my thumbs got tired and I realized that my phone battery was dying so I sort of resigned myself to just observe.
I expected some hate speak in the crowd- you know, anti Obama talk, etc. but overheard none. I did observe your typical folks with patriotic clothing or buttons, the conservative radio station was there as well as a few local news channels, but it was pretty tame. A few politicians were walking the crowd to thump their platform- including Chris Simcox who plans to run against John McCain in the next senate primary. Also a handful of meek folks with clipboards or flyers slowly walked the line- not taking advantage of their captive audience of I assume mostly conservatives.
Every once in a while someone would come back our way, make the typical "man, this is a long line" comment and say stuff like "you're never going to get in"- not to anyone in particular, but just to hear themselves speak I guess. There was one guy who was on his phone as he sauntered back the line saying "yeah, she was supposed to do 500 signatures and she's at 750 now. and there's about 1200 people still out here". My paranoia wondered if this guy was trying to psyche out those of us in line. But nobody bit.
As the door of Costco came into view, we were now by the tire center and a Costco employee moved a Toyota into a bay. The bumper sticker said "Obama/Biden" to which about a quarter of the crown started booing- not the owner of the car, not the Costco employee, but the car... that was a little nutty if you ask me. Still tame, I got a chuckle out of it.
At around this time- 2 hours into the ordeal, they made an official "end of line" point- well ahead of where I was, so I was now mentally at about a 5% chance of getting an autograph- still a tad of hope. But nobody left the line. Another half hour later, we were told "don't leave, they've figured something out for everyone", to which a happy buzz permeated the crowd or rejects. Sure enough, a few minutes later, several Costco employees came out with a box... of stickers... with Sarah Palin's autograph on it... and nobody left the line... and nobody freaked out... There was actually a news crew there to capture the reaction of some people who got stickers.
So now the autograph mission is over- sure it was a failure by definition, but I was cool. However, it was only 1:30 and she was leaving at 2pm, so I figured I'd go into Costco to check out the spectacle. As I walked in, the twang of some country song was being pumped from the middle of the store- I like country music, but I couldn't tell you who it was or the name of the song, but it was a female singer and the lyrics were pretty much "I'm a redneck girl". Then I felt like I was at some sort of celebrity event as people were snapping photos from all angles- and not close ups. Sure I had my camera so I tried, but I'm talking about 40 feet away, through a crowd, with her sitting down. As AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" cued up, and then "Baracuda" by Heart, it felt more and more orchestrated. This wasn't some radio station, or album- it's handpicked songs that "represent" Sarah Palin (go ahead and insert your own sarcastic song suggestions in the comment section below)
So since I couldn't meet Sarah Palin (or even reach those $12.99 jeans if i wanted to), I decided that I should now go into full on "fly on the wall" mode, and here is the ultimate fly on the wall moment. As I walked by the jewelry kiosk to buy the $38,000 tennis bracelet for my wife, I got distracted by a small crowd taking photos. Of course I was curious, so who could it be? Only a Costco employee- walking around with Sarah Palin's youngest child- the special needs one! And everyone is taking pictures of him or with him and the Costco employee! Of course I got a picture of this myself, so I'm just as guilty. But check out the dude who is flat out posing below. At this point, my day was done and I felt that I had seen enough, so I packed it in and left.
Now before you get the idea that all of a sudden I don't like Palin because of this experience, I can tell you that I still do. She's now in full on prep mode and every move "she" makes is pretty much out of her control. And that's cool. From a distance she looked genuinely happy to be there- but the idea of signing your name 2000 times in one day (she went to New Mexico that afternoon) made me ill and I imagine that any author eventually ends up like Bob Dole with that goofy dead arm action. I feel like I've gained a little insight firsthand (which I'm sure is anything but unique) More on Palin later.