Wednesday, December 9, 2009
GENTRY I have a confession to make. I went to Sarah Palin’s book signing at the Fayetteville Sam’s Club on Thursday with hopes of actually meeting her and maybe getting her picture.
I’m not a very political person and don’t usually identify with either the Democratic or Republican party, but as soon as I heard about Sarah Palin I liked her.
I think it was because, when I first heard about Palin, I had just found out I was pregnant with my youngest child and was thinking, “How in the world am I going to be a newspaper reporter, a good mother to my other two children and have a baby all at the same time?” She was pregnant in office as governor of Alaska and was running for vice-president with a fivemonth-old infant; I had toadmire her.
I also like her because she fits into my grandmother’s definition of a southern belle. According to my grandmother, a southern belle is a woman who is equally comfortable wearing coveralls and running a farm, in a business suit or in elegant evening wear at a formal event. She is strong and independent while gracious and ladylikeand definitely very elegant.
Even though Palin lives in our northern most state, I have to think that a woman who can run for vice-president with an infant in tow, hunt for moose and set fashion trends probably qualifies as a southern belle.
But back to the book signing... For my mother and me it was a hilarious adventure. First we decided to go, then we decided not to go, then we decided to go again.
With the car packed with all the essentials - diapers, sippy cup, stroller, coats, hats and a change of clothes - we headed off to Fayetteville. I honestly didn’t think there were that many people in northwest Arkansas or elsewhere that liked Palin so I quite foolishly didn’t expect a big crowd.
As we neared Sam’s Club, cars lined either side of Highway 112 at least a quarter a mile away. That’s when we started giggling. Since I had no intentions of pushing a stroller down Highway 112, I decided to push forward to find better parking.
As we turned into Sam’s Club, several woman surrounded by news cameras were protesting. I don’tthink I’ve ever seen real live protesters, at least not in the U.S.
“Take a picture!” my mom shouted, but the traffic was moving too fast.
The parking lot was jammed with cars and people were circling like vultures. A stooped-over little old man with a big cart load of groceries came out of Sam’s Club. Immediately a white SUV was on his tail. We doubled over with laughter as the SUV followed close behind him. The man stopped for a breather, and the SUV stopped. The man walked on and the SUV followed him like a big dog.
As luck would have it someone pulled out of a parking space just ahead of us, and we were able to dart in before the four other cars that were converging on the coveted space.
Inside, the store was deserted. Where were all the people that belonged to those cars?
“Where is the book signing?” I asked an important looking lady with a Sam’s Club badge.
She said people were lined up outside all the way around the building, and then back and forth and back and forth across the parking lot. She said people had been lined up since 6 p.m. on Wednesday and they had slept in the cold. She also said it was a five to six hour wait to get a book signed.
“I’ve been here since 4 a.m. It was really cold before the sun came up. People are crazy!” She said.
The high was 36 degrees on Thursday, with a stiff wind blowing. I had imagined an hour or two wait inside the store. We decided that we didn’t like Sarah Palin quite that much.
We did a little shopping and talked to some of the customers. One teenage girl had waited since 6 a.m.
“It was sooo worth it,” she said, holding her two prized copies of the book.
People gave glowing reports about getting to shake Palin’s dad’s hand and her aunt’s hand.
As we checked out, we heard a rumor that the line was a lot shorter. So on the way out we decided to take a peek. We walked all the way around the store and found a throng of people lined up back and forth.
A less important looking man with a Sam’s Club badge told us the first person arrived at the store at 10 a.m. Wednesday and camped outside for over 24 hours - my mom and I definitely don’t like Sarah Palin that much. The man said it was confirmed that 1,000 people had their books signed, and after that they stopped counting.
Someone else in line said Palin signed an average of 127 books an hour. Someone else said the whole family was there, even the baby and the dog.
The line was getting hopefully short and it was moving quickly. There were probably only 500people in front of us, but Isaac was growing restless. A sweet older lady in front of us assured him he would be glad someday that his mother had taken him to meet the first woman president.
In front of her, an extremely well-dressed woman with some serious looking diamonds was talking with great animation. She had driven from Texarkana to meet Palin, but gone to the Bentonville Sam’s Club by mistake and then had gotten lost, making her hours late.
She encouraged a young man with an eyebrow and lip ring to support Palin, warning him about the dangers of getting brainwashed by Obama.
“All he’s got is... is... this vision,” she said, before sticking out her tongue and pointing at her throat with a gag like a middle school girl who had been accused of liking an unpopular boy. If she didn’t get to see Palin in Fayetteville Thursday, the woman concluded she would drive to Dallas to see her on Friday.
We even saw a woman that looked exactly like Sarah Palin. She was dressed like her, had her hair done like her and even had little wire rimmed glasses like her. I’m prettysure I could have taken my picture with her and none of my friends would have known the difference. Now that is a fan!
Interestingly, there were quite a few men from thearmed services in line, some in full-dress uniform. One man had just gotten off the plane from Iraq that morning and the first thing he wanted to do was to meet Palin. He was moved to the front of the line.
Adriana was bundled up so much it was hard to hold on to her through all the layers of clothes. She kept slipping down, leaving me with an armful of coat while she slithered under my arm. After 30 minutes of jiggling, rocking and doing everything in my power to appease her, it became clear that waiting in line was not going to work. So I left my Mom and made the long walk back to the car, pushing a stroller full of merchandise, carrying Adriana - who was screaming like a siren - and dragging Isaac. I assure you it was a very, very long walk.
My mom stayed in line for a while longer. Sam’s Club officials came out and announced a cut off in the line. The people behind the cut off would receive a plate that Palin had signed earlier.
We though a plate was something that you eat off of, or maybe hang on the wall as a decoration. It turns out a plate is a fancy sticker with a signature that you put in the front of your book.
Although I didn’t get to see Palin, I went home happy. We had what we had gone for, a big of adventure, a day of fun and a good story to tell.
Opinion, Pages 5 on 12/09/2009