2.28.2007

I Walk the Line...

An Attorney from my office wanted to go to a hearing this morning. In order to ensure that he got in, he sent me early to get a place in line for him. Early, as in 2 1/2 hours before the the hearing started early. I must admit though, the experience was kind of amazing.

I don't think that many people are aware of this, but here in Washington we have professional line sitters. There is a whole group of people who are hired by lobbyists, law firms, and the like to wait in line so that they can get into hearings. I learned that most of them sleep outside of the House and Senate Office Buildings in order to get good spots. The result is that they have large bags to hold their stuff, and lots of ratty sweaters and layers on. Frankly, they look slightly homeless.

I managed to be the second person in line for my hearing, but another hearing in the same hall had about 14 line sitters already waiting at 7:30. The guy at the front of that line spent about an hour snoring loudly, leaving me to wonder just how long he had been there. I don't blame him, the Rayburn has some lovely leather couches for people to wait on. The guy in front of me seemed to be in charge of some of the line sitters. He was frequently on his cellphone and got up a lot to check on people throughout the building to make sure that all the necessary spots were saved.

He also told me about a very popular hearing last summer that a lot his clients wanted to go to. Apparently one of his competitors started the line for it 3 weeks before the hearing started, so he and his team had to spend 3 straight weeks in line. I am not sure exactly how this works, how can one group can stand in a line and declare that this is the line for the hearing in a few weeks? What stopped my fellow line sitter from standing somewhere else and declaring that the line? He spoke of this line with the same pride that someone has when they talk about marathons they have completed. He also got a lot of overtime for those weeks, which he was also happy about.

I did notice that the woman who was setting up my hearing frequently asked the guy which line was for which hearing, and how many people were waiting. I guess the House staff relies on the line sitters to keep the order.

This brings me to my next observation. Line sitters are very nice to each other. Once you are in line, you have saved that spot. People are free to get up and go to the bathroom, or get breakfast, or sub people in, once the spot has been saved. They all seem to know each other, and are very talkative. I talked with another professional line sitter about Sodoku solving strategies, and another offered me some of her popcorn and told me that she was worried about the potatoes that she planted earlier this week.

As the morning went on suits filled out the line and replaced the line sitters, and "Who do you work for?" replaced opinions on the Wizards and recent movies. The Rayburn was restored to its staid conservative self. Frankly, I liked it better at 7:30 in the morning.

2 comments:

  1. Speaking of line sitters -- where do you find them? I'm looking to hire a few line sitters in D.C.

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  2. I am not sure what company they work for, but you can literally find them outside of any hearing room at about 7:30 in the morning.

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