Chocolate chip cookies and fish for breakfast

(Missourinet Capitol office, 2 p.m., April 25th, I think. Wednesday, anyway.) On days like this I think of the catch line of a television commercial, “Well, you always wanted the life of an active reporter.”

Even on days like this, coupled with a day like yesterday and the day before, I have to admit that “Yes, I did,” and yes, I still do.

Our state senate passed the last of its budget bills about 2:30 a.m. today, Mondaytuesdaywednesday, April 25. It took almost no time for the senators to vamoose back to their hotel rooms or apartments or their homes. Reporters have to stick around and write their stories, which is why you should have heard the news of what transpired between 8:15 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. when you listened to a Missourinet newscast at 5:55 or 6:05 or whenever your Missourinet affiliate carries our first newscast. The sky was showing light between the clouds when this reporter arrived at his home, awakening Frederick the cat who complained loudly enough that he awoke Nancy the wife. It’s easy to blame cats for such things.

I also woke up Frederick on — let’s see — I think it was Tuesday morning when the senate had been in session but not actually meeting until midnight, putting the active reporter home at 3 a.m. for three hours of pillow worship. Frederick did not appreciate a second straight early morning invasion of his cat rest this morning.

If you’re going to be a journalist, you better learn how to sleep fast. Not go to sleep quickly, but cram as much sleep into your limited time as possible. Four and a half hours later, at 10:30, Nancy the personal alarm clock, awakened me so that I could return for another dose of the Missouri Senate.

The senate met for about 20 minutes, took a vote so members can collect their per diem, introduced a bunch of guests and then recessed for three hours of committee meetings.

This is the time of year when a lot of groups show up at the capitol not just to lobby, but to feed the multitudes. The Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants was in the rotunda with chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmmm. Chocolate Chip cookies are righteous. It’s okay to consume them on an empty stomach and on short sleep rations. Out on the south lawn, electric cooperatives were serving potato salad, slaw, beans and rice, hush puppies and fish parts. No, make that little pieces of fish. That sounds better. It was lunch for normal people. For people like Bob Watson of the local newspaper, the only other survivor from the Senate press table to be there when I walked into the chamber this morning, and for me, it was breakfast.

I’ve kept track of the life of an active reporter this week. Thanks to the senate, which took two days to get its members settled down enough to debate the budget and then decided to get the bills passed before any of them came up with any new problems to solve, I finished my 40-hour work week about the time it adjourned this morning.

Such is the glamorous life of an active reporter.

But if all we did as reporters is add up the hours that we work, we would long ago have found cubicle work in the bowels of some room with few or no windows. People like Bob Watson and me and the others who survived the long march to this morning’s adjournment have the special opportunity to watch the human drama of politics at its frustrating worst and its noblest best. If we choose to break the events of Mondaytuesdaywednesday down into their small segments, it is easy to focus on the absurdities of individuals. But (God help me, I almost said “at the end of the day.”) when the event ia completed, there is an understanding that government is a challenging balancing act. Sometimes it is unbalanced. Often it is imperfect. But early this morning, a majority of 34 Senators who come here and serve here with their own agendas and who have to deal with the agendas of dozens of others in the halls and hundreds of agendas of the people back home found a majority that could pass the budget bills.

Some of them went home angry. Some went hone disappointed. Some when home happy they had achieved their goal or a goal of one of their political supporters. I guarantee you that all of us went home tired.

We’ll be back at the senate press table in an hour, fortified by our chocolate chip cookies and fried fish parts, when the recess ends, hoping that floor leader Tom Dempsey is merciful unto us survivors. If it’s all the same to him, this active reporter would prefer to go home with the sun setting today, not rising tomorrow.

And that’s a day in the life of an active reporter. In this case, the day was Mondaytuesdaywednesday.

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