Few things can be more dispiriting than being told a meeting will resume at a certain time and then watching the eagerly awaited event get postponed again and again as the clock ticks away.
That’s what my colleagues in the state Capitol press corps and I endured into the small hours of Tuesday night and Wednesday morning as the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee put its final touches on the state budget. And, hell, I didn’t really have that much cause for complaint, not if I’m compared with some of the other poor saps in my line of work.
After being told the meeting would resume at 5, then at 7, then at 8:30, then at 9, then seeing 9 come and go with no further word of a start time, then hearing after midnight that 1 a.m. would be the time, then seeing it start 10 minutes late anyway, then learning there would be an hour-long break at 2:30 to let the Democrats consider two large motions introduced by Republicans, I finally decided I’d had enough and left. Some of the reporters were still there when the sun came up.
That’s not to say there weren’t moments of entertainment.
Someone gave us a real thrill when they turned the lights in the room off, not once, but twice. Another person in the audience had taped the commotion caused when a protestor had been hauled out of the room earlier in the day, and treated us to regular replays of the recording. Then there was the inevitable gossip that surfaces any time you bring a bunch of reporters together.
At some point, though, dark thoughts began creeping into my mind. I’m not sure if a lack of sleep had made me susceptible to paranoid delusions, or if the prolonged exposure to other reporters’ skeptical comments was tilting me toward cynicism, but I found myself wondering if there wasn’t some ulterior motive afoot.
Sure, lawmakers were considering important matters. What could be bigger than school vouchers and income taxes?
What, though, if they were actually enjoying keeping us all waiting, simply because doing so was yet another reminder of their immense power? I could just see them sitting in some secluded room – no longer smoke-filled in deference to current health standards – saying to themselves, “You know we’ve had this deal for days, but why not (insert diabolical laughter here) make them wait just an hour or two more?”
But surely those were just the half-mad wanderings of a sleep-starved mind. Weren’t they?