The former secretary of state appeared through a screen of black curtains, smiled to the wraparound crowd, and then sat down behind a table draped with a Costco Wholesale banner and buttressed by large blockades of Kirkland-brand paper towels, the 12-pack, pick-a-size kind.
“Okay, let’s do it,” she said, grabbing a pen to sign the 1,000 books she was scheduled to inscribe on Saturday morning.
The fans/discount shoppers applauded, and the delirious mania over the release of her political memoir “Hard Choices” — what it says, what it doesn’t, what it doesn’t say but should — culminated with Hillary Clinton in Aisle 130.
“I am here because of who she is, because of all she is,” said Marian Beverly, a retired NASA employee in line at the signing. “I love the Clintons,” added Beverly, who, in addition to being a fan of the Clintons, is also a fan of Costco’s frozen pizzas, paper products and rotisserie chickens.
“I wish you had a rotisserie chicken now,” moaned Fatema Dariani. Dariani, an attorney, was so intent on being first in line that she slept the night before on a concrete ramp near the Pentagon City Costco’s loading docks.
The signing was open only to card-carrying Costco members, who were wanded down at a security checkpoint and then led circuitously through the store: past the Braun electric razors, the 38-piece storage container sets, the brobingnagian coffee cannisters and the Vitamix demonstration (“I’d been thinking of getting a Vitamix,” someone exclaimed), and finally to a cordoned-off portion near the household goods section. There, an efficient throng of security personnel propelled fans toward the former New York senator and discouraged the taking of selfies.
“Thank you for coming,” Clinton told supporters, in air that smelled — very faintly — of the canned chicken with pineapple sauce dispersed by a sample lady elsewhere in the store. “How are you today?” “Oh, is that where you’re from?” “Yes, that was a long time ago.” “God bless you.”
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) wove through the line, as did Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Costco co-founder and Democratic supporter Jim Sinegal was there too, informing the onlookers who couldn’t quite place him that he was just another shopper.
Clinton’s other recent media stops included a sit-down chat at George Washington University’s Lisner auditorium and signing at the Free Library of Philadelphia. But Costco — a palatial shrine to the bulk-sized value-pack — has come, like Wal-Mart or Target, to represent a certain kind of unpretentious, well-stocked America.
It’s where someone is always handing out samples of breakfast sausage, where someone is always offering a good deal on heating installation, where shoppers are always finding reasons to purchase a 40-pack of batteries, a 2 lb. tub of hummus, and a pallet of laminate flooring, all on the same shopping trip.
In recent years, it’s also become a store for politicians to engage in retail politicking: Bill Clinton himself did a book signing for one of his books at this location. So did Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter and Herman Cain.
“I’m here to get books signed for my wife and daughter,” explained Daniel Simmons. “While I’m here, I’ll probably get some Dawn detergent, some black pepper and some organic spinach.”
“I’m looking forward to” the signing, said Doug Buckley. “I’m also looking for a flatscreen television.”
As the line moved forward, the people in it told Clinton that they were proud of her, that they were fans of hers, that they’d always loved her and — again and again — that they hoped she would run for office in 2016.
“I told her she would be the first president I’d ever voted for, and that I was a student, and she asked me where, and I said the University of Texas,” reported Taylor Stuart.
“I said that it was wonderful to meet her, and she said, ‘You too,’ even though she didn’t have to,” said Stuart’s sister, Kayla. Neither the Stuarts nor their friend Taylor Stoneman previously owned Costco memberships; all three purchased them to be eligible for the signing.
“I thanked her for being such an inspiration to me as I finished my first year of law school,” said Stoneman, a Cornell student who added that, as long as she was here, she might buy some chicken salad.