More than 72 hours before Monday’s US Supreme Court health care hearing starts, the line for spectators is already forming outside.
At 9 a.m. this morning the first person started the line in front of the Supreme Court. As of 3 p.m. there were six people in line, all to be allowed in to hear the arguments challenging the constitutionality of the health care legislation.
Seats to one of the most-anticipated hearings is a hot commodity around this town. In general there are about 60 seats reserved for the public. There are 34 additional seats for the public who just want to get a glimpse, they are rotated in every 3-5 minutes.
Five of six of the people in line already today were placeholders, holding a place for another person. One was just doing this as a favor for a friend who was in work all day, he admitted, and scored the second position in line.
“I think I might be the first person to check in on Facebook,” he exclaimed, not wanting to use his name.
The intention of the other placeholders were far less generous than simply helping a friend: they are sitting out on the sidewalk in line all weekend for cash.
“I’m performing a job,” the first person in line today said.
All declined to speak on camera or give their names. But they divulged that some were getting paid, “in the hundreds of dollars,” for this gig.
John Spears works for a Senate committee and is holding the place for someone on the committee. He’s getting paid his regular wage of a day’s shift to sit out here today. All placeholders admitted that they were on a schedule with many others. They’ll sit out here for a certain amount of time, and then swap out with another person, holding the place in line.
“When he comes, I’m gone,” Spears said of the next worker to hold the place for the Senate committee staff.
The first person in line this morning, says he will pull a 24 hour shift, from 9 a.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday until he is relieved.
Those in line have brought the essentials: chairs, PDAs, coffee, Gatorade, water, snacks, and cushions to sit on the hard concrete sidewalk ledge. Some are listening to music, others are already sleeping.
The third person in line made a temporary beer run, on bike, returning with a six-pack of Guinness.
What if it rains?
“I won’t be here, we have people rotate in and out,” one replied with a laugh implying there are limits to even this job.
Out of the six people already gathered in line, only one was holding the place for herself. And now, the placeholders have taken that job over too.
The woman, who came all the way from Atlanta to hear the arguments, is back at her hotel sleeping.
The placeholders are holding her place for her.