Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meeting Hillary Rodham Clinton

Unless you haven't been paying attention to the news, you probably know that Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, wrote a book titled Hard Choices that published this week. It covers mostly her time as Secretary of State, and the choices both she and the Obama administration had to make during difficult times.

The first stop on her book tour was this past Tuesday at the Barnes & Noble Union Square store. The store was scheduled to hand out wrist bands at 8am, and I felt comfortable getting to the store at 6:30am. When the taxi pulled up, I saw a huge line of people who had obviously slept overnight outside the store. It looked like the line outside the Today Show when One Direction is playing a concert on the plaza. By the time 8am rolled around, there was close to 1000 people in line.

The line snaked down 17th Street, up Park Ave. South and headed up 18th Street where I ended up, about 250th in line in my estimation. Luckily, I had a book with me to keep me company, although watching the people turn the corner hoping we were the end of the line, only to see the look of dismay cross their faces as they realized the line went all the way down another block, kept us amused.

At 8am, they opened the store to let us in, 20 at a time. We went to the cash register, paid for our book (limit one) and then formed a new line to go to the second floor where we checked our bags. We were told verbally and in writing (they gave us all an instruction sheet) that we could take our cell phone and wallet ONLY with us. But security told us if it didn't fit in our pocket, we had to check it. (If you had no pockets, like me, you were out of luck.)

This was the one glitch in an otherwise well-oiled machine; they could have given us that information online and we all would have been better prepared. I have been to many, many big book signings (including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter), and never have I had to check my purse.

We waited in line again to get up to the third floor where we got wanded before heading up to the fourth floor, the events floor. This store process took about an hour, so we waited in line again for another two hours or so. At least my group was in the actual event space, but we couldn't sit down. Normally, we sit in chairs, but the setup was all the press in front of the signing table, all of us behind them.

I didn't have a book with me, but just my luck I ended up standing next to table that had Colm Toibin's book of short stories, The Empty Family. I finished four of the stories while I waited. We all watched for signs, and when we saw Huma Abedin, Clinton's top aide, we knew Ms. Clinton would be there soon.

She walked in to thunderous applause and cheers, and she looked lovely in her bright pink jacket. The press took photos, she spoke a few words, and the signing began. It took another hour for me to get to the front of the line. She shook hands with all of us, and responded to our words.

I congratulated her on the upcoming grandbaby and then, like everyone else, told her that I hope she runs; our country needs her. She thanked me for coming and buying her book. She signed the book, and then we were handed the signed book. And like that it was over.

It was a six-hour process, but well worth the wait. I admire Ms. Clinton a great deal. The thing that struck me most about the crowd was the diversity of it; it looked like all of America. We were old and young, men and women, black, white, Asian, East Asian, Latino. The most surprising group there were young men, many of them about my sons' ages, early twenties. If these people were willing to wait 4-6 hours to meet Mrs. Clinton, I'd say she has a large, diverse group ready to vote for her if she runs.

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