Now authors don’t travel in tour buses with entourages. Rock stars, sports teams, and political candidates do. And that’s the thing. Very few people in the Costco crowd Saturday were there to see Hillary Clinton the author. They were there to see the Hillary Clinton whom almost everyone expects will gain the Democratic nomination in 2016 and try to become the first woman in American history to hold the office of President of the United States.
We were greeted by Megan Collins from Orange County, California, who is a sophomore in college here in the DC area. She offered us our “I’m Ready for Hillary” stickers (which as an old practicing journalist I declined) and explained the procedures for the day.
I asked Megan why she was working for the as-of-yet-not-declared candidate. “We’re here to show Hillary today that we have a number of people supporting her if she decides to run. And we’ll still be here for her in 2016.”
Megan said that while she endorses Mrs. Clinton for her political views, she also has a more personal reason to join the “I’m Ready for Hillary” campaign. Both of her parents are big Bill and Hillary Clinton supporters. When she was 8 months old, Megan had her picture taken with Mrs. Clinton. Later, her mother said, “maybe you’ll be working with her when you’re older.”
“And here I am,” she said with a wide smile. “I think it’s pretty revolutionary for a former First Lady to go out and make a name for herself. Not only is she a strong representative for the female community, she is a strong representative for America.”
But, of course, not everyone is as admiring of Mrs. Clinton as Megan or my wife’s roommate, Sue.
Take John Lipnicki of neighboring Vienna. The 69-year-old business owner was on the sidewalk next to the Costco, brandishing a large yellow, black, and red sign which attacked the former Secretary of State for Benghazi and claimed she had a legacy “written in blood from Arkansas to the White House.”
“I’m here to let people know that there is another side to Hillary,” Lipnicki said. “If she wants to be president, what she did or did not do will impact America for years to come. She’s no leader. Where was she when we needed her as secretary of state?”
And Lipnicki was not alone in his opposition to Clinton. At the front entrance of the store, the Republican National Committee had unleashed it new anti-Clinton weapon – a volunteer NRC worker in an orange-and-white squirrel costume wearing a dark blue t-shirt with the slogan “Another Clinton in the White House NUTS” written in red and white letters on the front.
Other RNC volunteers were on hand to distribute literature accusing Clinton of numerous failings including, of course, Benghazi, and her most recent statements that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House. For his part, the squirrel remained silent, letting his T-shirt proclaim his message. He (or she) did pose for pictures so that message could spread from Costco via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
Meanwhile, back in line, people passed the time by chatting – not surprisingly – about politics, government, and the Clintons.
Laird White from Arlington told us why he was spending 2-and-a-half hours here on a sunny Saturday. “I’m looking forward to 2016 and I’m hoping that somebody competent stays in the White House,” he said. White also said he had a suggestion he wanted to deliver to Mrs. Clinton. He believes he knows who should be her running mate – current senator and former Gov. Mark Warner from Virginia. “If she does choose Warner, then I can take credit for the pick,” he said with a laugh.
For her part, Suzie was having a hard time keeping her excitement in check. “What should I say her? Don’t you think she’s wonderful? She’s so great.”
Suddenly, she hit me on the shoulder. “Look, there’s Bill Clinton. Right behind us.
I turned around. Obviously, it wasn’t Bill Clinton, but for once Suzie was almost right. The man did resemble the former president. Especially at a quick glance. The Clinton look-alike turned out to be 59-year-old Rick Meidlinger from northern Virginia. He admitted this wasn’t the first time he had turned heads at a Clinton book signing. A few years ago, when Bill Clinton had appeared at the same Costco to sign one of his own books, Meidlinger had attended.
“I was sitting on that loading dock over there and a woman came over and said, ‘If I can’t get a picture with him, I can get a picture with you.'” Then others did the same thing.
I spent the next hour or so talking to Meidlinger, who, although he wasn’t the former president, did have a really interesting story behind his reason for getting Mrs. Clinton’s signature. Autograph gathering was something he had started with his younger daughter, who had a passion for baseball that she developed while playing sandlot ball with the boys in her neighborhood. She played Little League with the boys; then continued on to pitch with them on the high school baseball team. She had thrown a perfect game and been featured in a section of Sports Illustrated. Later, she made the US Women’s Baseball Team, but once it was decided that baseball wouldn’t be an Olympic sport, she gave up actively participating in the game. But she and her Dad continued collecting autographs.
Finally, after noon, we entered the store. In order to see Mrs. Clinton you had to be a Costco member. Judy and I had bought a membership the day before for $55. But since we had only 2 cards, that meant that only Judy and Sue could continue through the line. When we had purchased our membership, I told Dave, one of the store managers, about my plans to blog about the event. He suggested that we not carry anything in to the signing, since it would have to be stored and checked. So Judy and Sue gave their pocketbooks and small beach chairs to Marc, who would hold them, while I wandered around the store trying to capture more details for this post.
I will let Judy describe what happened next:
Sue and I were given yellow wristbands after we showed our 2 Costco membership cards. We proceeded following the yellow arrows down the cement floor aisles blocked off for the signing. Store employees had constructed a giant wall using slats of water bottles for a base and slats of paper towels for height to secure the signing area.
Since we weren’t carrying anything (not even a cell phone or a pre-purchased book), we were told to take a shortcut across 3 aisles of waiting Clinton fans, where we were scanned by Hillary’s security and lead to the inner signing area.
Sue meantime had asked me at least a dozen times if I was going to get her a book for Hillary to sign. I repeatedly assured her they would have books inside the maze that we could purchase and finally asked the security people just to assure her.
Sue asked me what I was going to say Hillary and, after thinking about it, I said I would simply thank her for all she has done for us (women).
As we rounded the final aisle, there she was, elevated on a platform, surrounded by hundreds of books and many members of her staff and security.
The people ahead of us had cell phones and were taking pictures while in line. “Oh man,” I said to Sue. “David will be upset that we don’t have our phones to take a picture” I turned around to Rick, our new friend and Bill Clinton look-alike, and asked him to take a few shots of Hillary signing books and then email them to us. He said he would.
The line was moving very quickly, but Sue observed that Hillary was shaking hands with every person in line.
“Oh my God Judy, what am I going to say to her. Doesn’t she look beautiful? I mean really beautiful?” Sue blurted out, obviously awe-struck at finally seeing Hillary up close and personal.
When it was our turn, three of us were herded up. Hillary shook all three of our hands and we were given a pre-signed book and led out the other side of the signing area. The entire process took less than 20 seconds.
I didn’t get to say “thank you for all you have done,” but we had gotten Sue to meet her political idol.