When she is tired, and this week she started our exhausted; Del. Ida G. Ruben (D-Montgomery), puts her fate in what she calls "watchdogs." During this last two weeks of the season when no one sleeps and everyone eats and drinks too much, "watchdogs" help steer legislative zombies in the right direction.
"I'm walking around in a fog this week because of my family," said Ruben. "My husband has pneumonia and I can hardly keep up with the bills I introduced, much less know how I'm going to vote and most of the issues."
So Ruben and most of the other legislators turn to the experts - like Del. Luccile Maurer (D-Montgomery) on educational issues - for guidance when their tired eyeballs make all bills blue. The political infighting in the legislature doesn't help.
"It's hell and it can be bloody, like everyone trying to get even," said Prince George's County Del. Nathan Exum, whose delegation has been in the midst of a struggle to persuade other delegates to vote for a convention center.
Exum also admits that he looks to others for guidance whenthe logjam breaks and laws are being passed minute by minute. In all, each bill gets only 11 minutes consideration on the average as it passes the House, to it is no surprise that delegates can only get by with some help from their friends.
It is the grind that is grueling. Del. Robert Anthony Jacques - admittedly a grump on the best of days - has turned into a sour-tempered bear these past few weeks. "My mother said I was even-tempered - always irritable . . . but not I'm really irritable."
Jacques, a Montgomery County delegate, sees the end of the legislative session as the end of sanity. "Just at the time when we should be vigilant, looking for little snakes, big snakes and boa constrictors, we are the most tired and it is the hardest to be vigilant. . ."
Yet Jacques pushes himself through the ridiculous 14-hour a day, six-day a week schedule anyway. "Saturday I finally got home at 6:00 P.M., I went to a concert and fell asleep. The next day I went to my office and fell asleep. Today I'm back here and all the pressure bills are on top of me . . . it's just the wrong time to make important decisions, when you are tired and irritable."
Luckily, Jacques is a bachelor. For delegates like Nancy Kopp, another Democrat from Montgomery, the last few weeks involve the skill of a juggler. Del. Kopp is the mother of a 5-month old girl and the wife of an attorney for the federal government. They went to be together so they have rented an apartment in Annapolis, hired "a great woman" to take the baby during the day and have gotten used to swing shifts.
"Robert commutes every day to the District and he doesn't seem to mind. When he comes home about 7 p.m. he takes care of our daughter and if I'm lucky I get to see them both on the weekends," explained Kopp, who is obviously pleased that her family came with her, which cuts down on the fatigue involved in commuting and some of the sense of unreality of the legislative session.
Cut off from their friends, away from home and eating out all the time wrecks anyone's balance. It can also ruin figures. "I don't get on the scale during the session. All went do is eat junk food," admitted Del. Kay G. Bienen, a Democrat from Prince George's.
But to break the panic of the last weeks, Biene has inaugurated a new tradition. She invites the Prince George's County Northern Area Children's Choir to invade the political halls of the House Office Building and sing about love and other alien emotions.
Monday night they came in their red vests and sang songs from Godspell and one about the superior qualities of the State of Maryland but few delegates were around to be uplifted - they had committee hearings or mandatory receptions with their constituents.
"Did you ever see a locomotive going up a hill on a greased track? That's this legislature, especially in the last three weeks," intoned Sen. Meyer M. Emanuel Jr., a Democrat from Prince George's.
"I've been walking around with a bad stomack these last three weeks from ciagrettes, coffee, hot dogs, cokes, ice cream, sandwiches and exhaustion."
Yet they all come back. Each year they submit themselves to the leisurely first month and later sink in to the total Annapolis experience that sends them to thinking about vacation before March is over when they still have most of April to contend with.
"I just keep thinking about my farm," admits Sen. Peter A. Bozick, a Democrat who heads the Prince George's delegation in the Senate. "It gets discouraging and I think about the day after the session when my wife and I climb into our car at 9 a.m. and head toward West Virginia. That's what keeps me going."