Monday, June 22, 2009

Little Trouble in BigTown #7: Wherein The Author Discovers that American Political Discourse is So Stultifyingly Boring and Poorly Worded He Wishes He Was Watching Parliament on CSPAN-2 Instead

(Note: written while I was waiting in line to get into the Hearing Room)
The Hearing Room is similar to a courtroom or a movie-set backlot of the UN: plebes sit on one side in rickety wooden chairs, important people sit on the other side behind long, high judge's benches. The whole place is packed (there's a sign outside that says "Hearing Room Full"), with the seating arrangements reflecting might be termed a Betty Krockerian distribution: moist and fluffy lobbyists on the inside, dotted with a few hard activists here and there, all coated with a layer of sweet, pinkish interns standing around them, ready at any minute to get licked off by coffee- or printout-starved Congresspersons.

At the behest of an aide, I slip in and find the only available seat: a front row one with a hastily-photocopied sheet of paper that says "RESERVED". The assembled representatives are busy making their opening statements, capped at three minutes apiece by a digital shot clock mounted above the door. I half expected there to be a pair of LED score readouts on either side with the labels "HOME" and "REPUBLICAN", with corresponding markers for team fouls, T.O.'s, and Filibusters remaining etc.

There's also a pair of industrial-grade videocameras trained on whoever happens to be speaking at the moment, probably streaming via C-SPAN8 ("The Ocho"), and also being outputted to a pair of high-def TV's mounted on the walls. I am surprised to see Greg Siegel's theories on sporting events and hypermediacy being applied here: people are watching the viewscreens instead of the speakers who are 20 feet away. I too succumb to the temptation, as the second camera is angled so if I sit up strait you can see the back of my head and shoulders, rather like a third-person shooter (or Super Mario 64, if that's more your game). I amuse myself for a few minutes making dramatic turns of the head, until I realize I am one of the two people in the room who is not wearing a suit, and definitely the only one wearing dark jeans. (I am also the only one with a notebook instead of a Blackberry).

Although I feel inferior to the $300 tailored suits and I-Went-To-Wellesley-DOntcha-Know-That's-Where-Hillary-Went pantsuits and skirts, I remind myself that, in the words of an immortal South African, "Clothes should not be giving you status...you should be giving status to your clothes!" Which is just a fancy way for me to feel better about wearing a khaki sport coat my mom bought an an outlet mall (on sale, too). I try my hardest to do what I had learned to do as a small child to improve my self-esteem: I focuse on other people's flaws. Thankfully, there's an immediate target: a legislator from [State Redacted] who is sitting *directly behind* the lady giving her opening statement and casually deciding in the middle of the statement to flip open a magazine and read.

Oh, politics.

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