I had the chance, many years ago, to queue up and pass under the dome of the U.S. Capitol while Ronald Reagan lay in state. That line stretched through switchbacks down the Mall from the foot of the West Front stairs down towards the Washington Monument. The wait lasted 8 or 9 hours through the night. Coming out of the darkened and muted Capitol just as the sun was rising will be something I remember for the rest of my life.
That long ago queue was nothing compared to the lines now formed for those waiting to file into Westminster Hall and past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s the queue to end all queues. As I write this, the line stands somewhere around five miles long and has as estimated 14 hour through time from end to end. The Government attempted to pause new entries on Friday morning, but people kept coming on in a volume that almost implies there will need to a queue for those waiting to join the queue. It will certainly grow even longer as the weekend gets properly underway.
The queue, in all of its absurdist five mile glory, is almost the apotheosis of Britishness. It’s a sight to see, something to behold in its own right – the last mark of tribute to the late Sovereign from the people she served so long and so well.
I don’t tend to be someone who lives in regret, but I already know not jumping on a flight to London earlier this week and sorting out the rest of the details in transit will be a lingering regret of a lifetime. Timing, finances, and assorted personal responsibilities conspired to make that an impossible lift. Although my body remains firmly here in Cecil County today, my heart is most assuredly in the queue.
1. Protocol. Apparently over the last week we’ve had royalty in America. The reason I know this is because on several occasions, I ran across articles written to advise my countrymen on the proper manner of bowing before the future English sovereign and his future queen. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Brits – their television, their sense of humor, and yes, even their quaint old fashioned notions of nobility… but here in the States, we’re citizens rather than subjects. On points of procedure for when it’s appropriate for an American to bow to the future monarchs of a foreign power, even one with whom we have a long and special relationship, the correct answer is simply “it isn’t.” We’re Americans. We don’t dip our colors and we don’t bow to royalty (or anyone else for that matter).
2. Sweats. In conversation many months ago a friend was shocked when I mentioned something about not having worn sweat pants since some time in the George H. W. Bush administration. She was shocked – possibly appalled – at my lack of concern for issues of comfort. In an effort to show that I do occasionally try something new, I picked up a pair recently and was duly impressed by their level of comfort compared to my usual Wrangler jeans. I supposed the biggest problem is I’m not exactly the type to go through the day just lounging about. Generally I’m doing something even if never leaving the confines of historic Rental Casa de Jeff. My real problem was what the hell you’re supposed to do with all the ephemera that usually ends up in my pockets – a pen knife, my phone, keys, etc. Sure, they were plenty comfortable, but I found myself trying to reach into pockets that weren’t there for objects that over the course of the day ended up scattered all over the house. As far as I’m concerned that level of inconvenience is too high a price to pay for a stretchier pair of pants.
3. The 113th Congress. The honorable members of the House of Representatives once again are spending the dying hours of a continuing resolution haggling over what amounts to peanuts in terms of the federal budgetary process. While no one is seriously talking about another shut down at midnight tonight it’s a possibility at the outside if they can’t find their way clear to passing a CR to cover the next few days while they rehash the omnibus spending bill before them. That they finish this way sums up the totality of this Congress nicely – even unto the end they’re collectively incapable of exercising one of the very few responsibilities entrusted to them in the letter of the Constitution. How very typical. Asshats, one and all.