Clinton worth a wait

SEATTLE – Everett resident Robin Garrett never imagined she’d spend two nights sleeping on the streets of Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

No, she didn’t fall on hard times. She wasn’t really looking for an adventure, either.

She just wanted to make sure she was one of hundreds to get their own copy of Bill Clinton’s autobiography “My Life” signed by the former president.

She hoped she’d be the first in line when she arrived at the desolate corner of First Avenue S. and S. Main Street at 1 a.m. Tuesday – 43 hours before Clinton was to arrive.

“When I first heard he was coming to town, I thought maybe I’d have a chance to meet him,” said Garrett, 43. “I figured people would be lining up long before I got here. But I thought I’d try to get as close as I can.”

Clinton arrived at Elliott Bay on Wednesday night to sign his new book for Garrett and about 1,500 others who’d bought advance tickets.

He entered through the bookstore cafe, stopped at the counter to pick up a cup of Capitol Hill’s own Top Pot Roasted Coffee, served up by cafe owner Joel Radin.

The blend was called The Diplomat. Clinton ordered it straight – no cream or sugar.

“He said he doesn’t like that stuff,” Radin said.

Clinton proceeded into the signing area, where the waiting crowd greeted him with loud applause and shouts of “Thank you, Mr. President.”

Clinton stopped to take in the scene, holding his coffee cup, gave his trademark nod of the head and bite of his bottom lip and said, “Thank you for coming. Hello everybody. This is great.”

With that, Garrett walked to the table, shook Clinton’s hand and watched as he penned his name in her book.

Seconds later, she struggled for words to describe her moment.

“This is incredible,” she said. “Once in a lifetime.”

To make it through the two days and nights up to that moment, Garrett only needed some homework, some Diet Pepsi and a good fish sandwich. Her sisters, Cynthia Garrett and Towanda Tunsil, also of Everett, brought her supplies as needed.

“We all laughed at her, we thought she was crazy,” said Cynthia Garrett, 42. “I bought the books, she stood in line. That was the deal. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.”

Cynthia Garrett first checked on her sister during her lunch break from her job at Seattle Public Utilities around noon Tuesday. She brought a fish sandwich from By’s.

Robin Garrett said her deep respect and admiration for Clinton was what drove her to that corner. She enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1979 and has been a reservist ever since, so the chance to give a nod to her former commander-in-chief was something she said she couldn’t pass up.

“I thought he was very effective and he made a lot of good changes,” she said. “I just wanted a chance to meet him and say, ‘Thank you for what you did for our country.’”

Garrett didn’t set out to impress anyone. Standing in line overnight is something she’d never done before, but found that it brought her serious attention. She was interviewed Tuesday and Wednesday by newspaper, radio and television reporters.

“It’s my 15 seconds, I guess,” she said. “I was actually glad when other people started showing up so they could be interviewed, too. I’m not the only one (out here). Just the only fool who got here early.”

But she’d probably do it again. Garrett said her fondest memory will be the people she met.

Standing there with two fresh copies of Clinton’s book, Garrett beamed knowing that her two days were soon going to culminate in the special moment.

“I’m just someone who has a lot of respect and admiration for him,” Garrett said. “I’m just an average person. I mean, when am I, Robin Garrett, ever going to be able to meet a president again?”

Earlier in the day, Clinton was at the Issaquah Costco, sitting amid pallets of ceiling fans, vacuum cleaners and coffee makers to sign copies of his memoir.

“I had to take the day off to be here,” said Costco worker Karyn Hines, who joined the long queue of book buyers at 6 a.m. “But it’s worth it. I’ve been dying to meet him.”

After wrapping up his scheduled signing at Costco, Clinton briefly browsed through the store, to the surprise of customers and staff, then halted his motorcade in the parking lot to sign more books and autographs, using a line of shopping carts as an impromptu desk.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Victor Balta: 425-339-3455 or vbalta@ heraldnet.com.

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