Tuesday evening, 10:30 pm: I put on 3-7 layers of clothing over most parts of my body so I can take just one small, old blanket to Court. I don't want to take a big blanket or lots of stuff because you have to either check everything inside or stow it in teeny lockers. If need be, I can toss this crumby blanket in a trash can. Anyway it's supposed to be 40 degrees tonite with no precipitation.
11:30 pm: Arrive at Court to find about 40 people already in line. Fortunately, they all look like normal college students, no weirdoes. I guess the weirdoes wait for warm daylight and TV cameras. Everybody has bedrolls, some have lawn chairs and footballs and boxes of food. I expect to see a few hackysacks but I guess they're out of style. (There should be official Supreme Court hackysacks. If Oxford University can have them, so can the Court.) I plotz my blanket down on the sidewalk and fone a few friends and family who are all in bed already, except for good ol' waxpumpkin who's at Denny's. Some law students in front of me are debating the law, which I have zero interest in doing at this point. Some college students in back of me are ordering pizzas, which I also have zero interest in because if I eat or drink I'll have to find a bathroom, and even though someone has announced that a religious group a couple blocks away is offering free bathrooms and hot chocolate, I don't feel like wandering around Capitol Hill in the dark to get there. I have a lovely view of Venus and the Big Dipper overhead and the lit Capitol Dome across the street. I decide to go to sleep.
12:30 am: I fell asleep on top of my blanket in my layers of clothing, but woke up feeling cold so decided to get under the blanket. Unfolding it, I discover a bunch of brown paint stains from when Whatsisname apparently used it as a drop cloth when painting the window trim. It looks like Jack the Ripper practiced on it. The kid next to me keeps exhorting her friends to "schpoon" and "schnuggle" with her to keep warm and it's really starting to get on my nerves. I go back to sleep.
1:30 am: I wake up to find most of the other people in line have now gone to sleep in their bed rolls and also it's getting REALLY cold. I was expecting temps in the low 30s but this seems worse than that.
3:00 am: I wake up again. OK, it is now officially ass cold. Shackleton cold. Anne Frank concentration-camp cold. Ivan Denisovitch in Siberia cold. I'm wearing regular underwear, thermal underwear on top of that, a long sleeved sweater dress, a long sleeved sweater coat over that, a sweatshirt on top of the sweater, tights over the longjohns on my legs, ski pants over the tights, wool socks and leather shoes on my feet, my coat over everything, a wool hat with an attached scarf, and a shawl over the hat, and gloves. And I am STILL freezing! I thought cold made you sleepy but it's keeping me awake.
3:30 am: I must have fallen asleep because someone (I suspect Annoying Schpoon Girl) just punched me in the back to wake me up because I was apparently snoring and keeping others awake. As the cold has closed my sinuses and I'm trying to breathe through two scarves, I'm sure I sounded like a dying walrus, but still, curse that beeyotch for waking me up. My hands, which have the fewest layers on, are so cold I feel like they're going to drop off. Somehow I get back to sleep for about a half hour at a time.
5:30 am: I wake up to a beautiful unearthly blue sky behind the Court as the sun is coming up. Having slept a total of maybe 3 hours, I decide to get up and move around in hopes that that and the sun will get me warmer. TV crews appear and wake up everybody who isn't already up by hopping over sleeping bodies and running high-voltage cable along the hedge next to the sleeping bodies' heads. Everyone is complaining about how cold it was last night. The temp according to my cell fone is either 29 degrees or 33 degrees. I call Ted and wake him up and he says it's supposed to be in the mid-30s. This is BS as I can see my freaking breath. I figure it got down to about 25 last night.
6:30 am: According to other people in line, we are supposed to be issued numbered tickets soon so we can leave the line for food and bathrooms without fear of line jumpers, etc. A guard comes down the line and we think he's handing out the tickets, but he's just giving out brochures and telling us to pack up camp because he'll be moving our line from the court steps onto the plaza. People are wandering around in blankets, like the cover of the Woodstock album. More people are showing up to get in line for seats and are surprised that the line is already so long. Those of us who camped out are starting to worry that we won't all get a seat. On average, the first 50 people get in, so everyone is counting to see if they're 51 or higher, but legend has it that for Bush v. Gore people camped out for two days over a weekend in the snow and only the very first person in line ended up getting a seat.
7:30 am: The sun is out, the news crews are out, the protestors with their signs are out, and we are in line on the Plaza. The guards hand out 75 no-substitution tickets and warn us that they don't guarantee a seat and that if we leave the line we must ask permission and that if they call our number while we're gone then we lose our place. Some folks still go use the bathrooms and cafeteria in the now-open building but I decide to stay put just to be safe.
As usual, I feel sorry for the guards who get pestered about 370 times a day by people who just blew in from Podunk, "My family's in line a block away and we're booked on a Pentagon tour at noon and what's the odds of us getting in to see the Court before then? Oh, and how come THOSE people [referring to lawyers, people with invitations etc. who are bypassing the line] are getting in now and we're not?" I don't know how the guards keep from losing their patience. Although I did see one on Monday who had just announced that the Court was totally full get asked whinily (exact quote), "Well, just how big is that thingamajigger, anyway?" and guard put hands on hips and responded "It's BIG, okay?" causing the whiner to bitch for ten minutes, but it made me laugh.
8:00 am: The college kids behind me discover that they have accidentally received an extra ticket from the guard. While trying to decide what to do with it (giving it to someone else is a hassle due to messing up the line sequence), a guy comes down the line offering people 100 bux for a ticket. He announces that he's a LAWYER (well, whoop dee shit), that he worked on one of the amicus briefs but couldn't get an invite to the argument, and that he drove in from [another large city] too late to get a seat. I don't have much sympathy for this dude as I'm a lawyer too and lawyers, especially those who work on S Ct briefs, should have the brains to call somebody or do research in advance so they know the drill and then sleep out all nite if necessary to get in the honest way. The kids with the extra ticket of course jump on his offer, 100 bux being a lot of beer and pizza money to them. I think this exchange is vaguely unethical and unfair because I too could have slept in a nice warm bed and then thrown 100 or even 200 bux at someone for a seat, but the Court ain't the Super Bowl and should be open to everybody, not just the ones with the $$. I briefly wonder if I have an obligation to report the fellow for some ethics violation. I decide in the end that it was pretty assy of his supervising partner to not get him a seat after he worked on the brief (Partner, of course, has a reservation), although I can see where the bazillion amicus briefs in this case probably made it difficult (I suspect the Justices don't pay much attention to those anyway), and no one was really harmed by the economic transaction so, fine, sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
I would have been willing to leave it at that but this guy, who I now have to stand in line with for another hour, turns out to be the pushy, loud, arrogant variety of lawyer that gives the more scholarly and schmoozy and just plain nice among us a bad name. He proceeds to brag at length about all the stuff he did on the brief and his job, and gloms onto the people in front of me who are law students, asking them questions such as "What law school do YOU go to?" (Law students will realize that this question asked in a certain tone is almost as rude as "What grades did you get?" because the other party is trying to find out your intelligence and "rank"). The guy he asks turns out to be attending a Top 5 which is about 50 notches above where Arrogant Ass (tm) went, so haha. When some weirdo comes down the line trying to hand out born-again literature, Arrogant Ass (tm) isn't content to say "No thanks," instead he has to announce, "You're giving this to the wrong person, I wrote a brief in support of the OTHER side!" and then make fun of the literature for a while. When Newdow shows up, waving to his atheist fans like a rock star, Arrogant Ass (tm) screams and yells and cheers and acts all personally-connected like. I do what I usually do when confronted by Arrogant Asses (tm), especially at 8 in the morning before coffee: turn my ignore switch up on High. I manage to spend the next hour with my nose mostly in a book, without discussing what I do or where I work (a firm of similar rank to and in my experience, better than his), and confine myself to mentioning quietly to the guy in front of me that I'm glad I got my ticket the honest lawyer way and calling Ted to bitch when the guy mercifully tags after the law students heading to the cafeteria.
8:15 am: The guards come down the line telling us to get rid of any extra sleeping bags, lawn chairs and luggage we might have because the check room can't handle that much stuff. There is much consternation in the ranks as people scramble to move stuff to their cars or, in the case of one girl who has no car, getting a friendly atheist protestor to watch her suitcase till the argument is over. Carless girl's friend tells her to be sure and tell the kind atheist, "God bless you!"
9:00 am: The people ahead of me who went to the cafeteria come back, with Arrogant Ass (tm) in tow, and get a late warning from the guards about the sleeping bags. A.A. starts to holler about how they should have been told earlier and I point out that they missed the early announcement by going to the cafeteria. A.A. shuts up. Jennifer Kerr from Associated Press comes over and interviews me, I guess I look all interesting because I'm reading a Maggie Smith paperback and ignoring everybody around me. So A.A. finally gets to hear me tell Jennifer where I work and all that fun shit. It seems like A.A. shuts up even more after that, but it could be that he just ran out of conversational gasoline. Whatever, we're almost inside.
9:15 am: We finally get admitted and go through security and then visit the tiny little coat check room and the tiny little lockers which require quarters. Of course, A.A. has no quarters, and starts asking loudly if anyone has a quarter despite there being a change machine steps away. I slap 75 cents in his hand out of a mixed impulse to preserve the collegiality of the bar and to shut him back up. He tries to give me a buck back and I say forget it. I finally get to the ladies room where my sweater dress makes me look reasonably decent to sit in Court, although it hardly matters as most of the other people are in camping clothes. I just feel better in there when I look businessy. At long last, I get my seat in the rear in a direct line to the podium, next to a nice big marble pillar that I proceed to lean on, and under a cold air vent so I don't feel that much warmer despite the fact that I still have most of my outdoor layers on.
Coming in Part III...The Argument!