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Uncharted Waters

By Staff | Dec 7, 2010

Last Thursday was an “uncharted waters” experience. At 3 a.m. I tip-toed into a ten-hour adventure that was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long while.

At a little after 3:30 a.m. I took off for Spirit Lake to stand in line to have Sarah Palin autograph her book. My most recent late-night adventure had been with my granddaughter at a midnight opening of one of the Harry Potter films. But this was different. I had no idea what to expect.

I arrived at the Spirit Lake Walmart shortly before 4:30 a.m. and purchased my books. Sarah Palin would sign two books for each person wearing a wristband. One book for me and one for my sister as a birthday gift. At the checkout, a woman was purchasing a folding lawn chair.

The maze toward the front wound through the store. It was an excellent way to view merchandise, winding back and forth through several departments. At last I came to the end of the line, which was actually the second row of people. Some were standing, but most were seated…in chairs. Seemed to me I had a chair in my trunk. The gentleman ahead of me held my books – and my spot in line – as I went back into the cold night to retrieve my chair.

The kind gentleman was Jim Gehrt of Mallard. We introduced ourselves to a couple of women from Spirit Lake and another woman from the Jackson, MN area. This group became good friends throughout the morning. We talked about a variety subjects and solved many of the world’s problems.

At 6 a.m. the store started distributing wristbands. Each was numbered and mine was #53. At that point, we were given more freedom. At first, the store was going to hand out passes to get coffee or use the restroom, but they quickly decided that we should be given more freedomas long as we were back in line by 9:30 a.m. Jim and I headed out to get coffee. The restaurant facility in the store was not yet open, so we ventured out into the dark early morning. Our quest for latte was unsuccessful, so we settled for gas station coffee with cream.

The first 500 in line were guaranteed a wristband. That had been announced in the early publicity of Sarah Palin’s book tour and was one of the reasons I was on the road at 3:30 a.m. I had decided if I was going to do this, I would make sure I would get an autograph. We learned that the first people in line had come from Minnesota and had been there since 8 p.m. Wednesday night.

With this group of new-found friends, the morning went by rather quickly. The store staff came around with a basket of candies and trays of cookies. Later, they gave out “door prizes.” A nice gesture on their part.

Cameras would not be allowed in the signing area, but one of our group had a camera and we did a group photo to remember the occasion. When the line started to move, discussion turned to, “What are you going to say to Sarah Palin?” One in our group said she was so nervous her hands were sweaty.

The media was allowed to take photos, but not ask questions about the author’s political plans. This was a book tour, not a political tour. We later learned that someone from the media had crossed that line and was asked to leave the signing area. It was more exciting for me to be in line to have a book signed than to be taking photos.

Entering the signing area, we turned over our books and received signed books in return. Sarah Palin asked everyone his/her name, shook hands and in return we received signed books. It was brief, but worth every minute of standing in line.

Jim Gehrt had a memorable experience. Sarah Palin asked him what he does and Jim replied that he was mostly retired, but also the mayor of his community. Sarah Palin personalized his book, “To Jim, God bless” with her signature. He was more than pleased.

My decision to see Sarah Palin had little to do with politics. Rather, it had more to do with the fact that she has emerged as a dynamic woman and a leader in our country. When Hillary Clinton came to Emmetsburg on the campaign trail, I was there to see her, too. We are so fortunate that women of this stature want to visit Northwest Iowa.