Behind the Scenes at Time

Analysis of breaking news events.
Nov. 8 2000 2:16 AM

Behind the Scenes at Time

Joel Stein, a writer for Time magazine, filed this report about working election night.

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Jumbles. So much promise for the jumbles. All week long, we looked at the menu posted in the hall--the 5 a.m. breakfast, the salmon dinner, but by far the most exciting was the 11 p.m. cold buffet that included lemon bars and jumbles.

By 11, people had changed into sweatshirts, brought out their toothbrushes, and were sharing saline solution in the bathroom. Belinda Luscombe had brought out a board game. Foosball was in full effect. Despite the fact that we received new exit polls every one and a half hours, overexcited Managing Editor Walter Isaacson asked that updates be e-mailed to the staff every half an hour. It was the geekiest freshman dorm anywhere in the country.

We had prepared two complete issues--the articles, the pictures--we even had several stories written about Bush taking the popular vote and still losing, and an Arthur Schlesinger essay about an electoral tie. Imagine our dismay when our foosball game was interrupted by the one possibility we hadn't planned: Gore winning the popular vote and losing the electoral vote. Luckily, we had a lot of people in the office.

I had never cared about politics before, but I got caught up in the excitement. It was like the Super Bowl, if I liked football and sometimes the announcers called a touchdown by mistake. People were yelling in the halls about Florida being taken back. We had exit polls in the conference room with lots of information about unmarried female Hispanic voters, but we got our information from the networks like everyone else. Despite that, our friends, relatives, and even some people on the Gore campaign kept calling asking us if we knew stuff.

By 2 a.m. the fun started to wear down and it became clear that no one was going to hook up. Everyone became decidedly less attractive in their glasses and desperate need for deodorant and a Stridex wipe. People had clearly forgotten about those toothbrushes and toothpaste they brought in. We were just waiting for heads and captions.

Jumbles, it turns out, are just overcooked chocolate cookies.

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