Shaving cream, aspirin, floss - oh, and a Valentine's Day cardOne thing I miss about not being a newspaper reporter at the Legislature is the hoopla that surrounds Valentine’s Day. For as long as I can remember, when I’d report for duty on Valentine’s Day during a legislative session, one of the first people I’d see would be that big, old Cupid of a lobbyist, George Valentine.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
One thing I miss about not being a newspaper reporter at the Legislature is the hoopla that surrounds Valentine’s Day.
For as long as I can remember, when I’d report for duty on Valentine’s Day during a legislative session, one of the first people I’d see would be that big, old Cupid of a lobbyist, George Valentine. It became a tradition for him to roam the Capitol building on the morning of Valentine’s Day (or the day before if, as is true this year, the actual date came on a weekend) carrying sheets of stick-um red hearts. When he greeted you, he’d slap a red heart on your lapel or name tag and bark, “There. Happy Valentine’s Day.” Then he’d look for another victim. Before the morning was over, nearly everyone you met on the third floor of the Capitol was wearing one of Valentine’s hearts on his sleeve, or, you know, identification badge or whatever.
I know, it sounds goofy. It probably was. By Feb. 14 in most legislative sessions, though, people were ready for some goofiness, knowing that the days were about the get longer and the debates more intense.
Valentine’s Day at the Capitol also meant flowers all around, and I mean all around. The local florists were working overtime to meet the demand. Sometimes when I’d meet a florist’s delivery person pushing a cart overflowing with roses and other assorted floral arrangements, I’d point to the press-room door and say, “Ah, you’re here. Good. I ordered this stuff. Just put it in there, and I’ll sort it out later.” I had no luck with that approach, proving, I suppose, that floral delivery people are a lot sharper than I am convincing.
The flowers, then, got to their rightful recipients, and by the time the afternoon floor sessions arrived, every desk in the Senate and House was covered with vases of flowers, along with a few pink teddy bears and other assorted Valentine’s Day keepsakes. Photographers trying to capture an image of a speaker during a debate would crane and strain to try to see a face through the foliage. It made for some humorous images, which used to be printed outtakes tossed on the press room floor but which in later years became a quick look and a delete.
I just had to think of those overcrowded desks the other evening as I watched Nancy getting some Valentine’s Day gifts and gadgets ready for the granddaughters. By the time she was finished, five heart-red or pink or heart-bedecked gift sacks were stuffed with colored tissue paper to hide, well, I’m not sure what. Candy, I suppose. A bit of jewelry? I guess I’ll find out when the girls dig into their individual sacks. I surely don’t know what a person would give to a teenaged girl for Valentine’s Day.
I once gave a cute teenaged girl a heart on a chain, but that was a long time ago and the context was completely different. These are the grandkids. I’m easily stumped. Nancy has much more imagination, and a strong desire to make each gift special to each granddaughter. If it were left to me, I suppose each of the girls would get a greeting card.
That’s another thing about Valentine’s Day during the legislative session. If you go downtown in the evening a day or two before Valentine’s Day, you’ll run into all sorts of legislators and lobbyists wandering through the greeting card sections of the local stores. Many of them seem embarrassed to be there, as though there’s some shame in shopping late for the most romantic day of the year. They pick up a few items — some shaving cream, aspirin, dental floss — and then ease through the card section, as if they’re just passing by. They casually pick up a card, inspect it and shrug, tucking it among their purchases, trying to look like they just noticed it and are getting a jump on next year.
It happens year after year. I’ve seen it more times than I care to remember.
Me? I’m just down at Dakota Mart picking up a few items, and what do you know? There I am in the greeting card section.
Terry Woster’s column appears Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.