Friday, November 10, 2000

For the impatient, waiting is the hardest part

By Karen Samples
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This nation of speed demons has a dilemma: Should it be impatient for a conclusion or thrilled by the long-running drama?

        We were captivated, after all, when O.J. Simpson took his sweet time with that infamous Bronco ride. Then again, people can't wait for the new Sony PlayStation. In Washington last month, a man robbed a 12-year-old of his game rather than stand in line.

        Now the country's most important business — choosing a leader — is indefinitely on hold.

        Jon Brennan, for one, can hardly stand it.

        “I'd say I check the Web every 20 minutes,” says Mr. Brennan, 34, an engineer from Sharonville.

        Thursday on the Internet, he read that Vice President Al Gore had gained votes in the Florida count, with half the counties reporting.

        That only raised more questions for Mr. Brennan. He turned immediately to his retired father, who is monitoring the television.

        “I just called my dad back at home in Delaware — "Dad, what are they saying, are these counties more Republican or more Democratic?'”

        Mr. Brennan is antsy but also enthralled, and therein lies the rub. This isn't an election. It's a movie.

        “If it can get to that level, then it becomes a two-edged sword,” Mr. Brennan says. “You want to know how the story ends, but you want it to keep on going.”

        Journalists have the same dilemma. Great stories generate endless coverage, but also the need to be first. Professional impatience led to serious errors on Tuesday night.

        “The system broke down,” says Ray Marcano, president of the national Society of Professional Journalists. “It was a big mistake. Hopefully this gives all journalists pause to examine how they do their jobs.”

        Of course, there's only so much time for pausing. The next day, people will still be clamoring for instant news.

        “We live in a fast-paced world today. If it's not available right then, when you want it, all of a sudden it's of no use,” Mr. Marcano says.

        Some Tristate consumers would disagree.

        “I'd rather have the accurate report. I think I could wait,” says David Ellis, 20, of Edgewood, Ky.

        He voted for Ralph Nader. Now he's chuckling at talk-radio conservatives, who apparently can't wait to find a conspiracy, he says.

        “They're talking about Democratic incompetence, that it's basically the old people in Florida screwing it up,” Mr. Ellis says. “It's not very educated, what they're saying.”

        Instant gratification isn't a universal desire. Across the Tristate Thursday, people like Mr. Ellis, who say they can wait, worked alongside people who have to know RIGHT NOW.

        “One girl who works for us, she's only 19, and she spent the whole day huddled around the TV,” says Chip Smith, proprietor of Spunk, a clothing store in Clifton. “I said, "You know what? It's not going to make that much difference to me. They're both going to tax the (heck) out of me.”

        At least one resident is counting on more drama. Brad Bonham, a landscape artist from Wyoming, is having a small dinner party for friends this week so they can discuss the continuing saga.

        She's enjoying the contrast between the people's impatience and the deliberateness of the process. Journalists may call the election before it's over, but the system reins them in.

        “I think we're going to be talking about what it's like to live through this,” she says.

        Compared to a normal election, “It's so much more entertaining.”


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