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Seating for RBG was meant to be

by Tammy Keith | September 8, 2019 at 12:00 a.m.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

My husband got four tickets to see Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before they were gone in minutes. My mother drove for more than two hours to go with us, and my daughter-in-law went separately with a friend.

I am known in my family for wanting to be ridiculously early to events. Thinking about long lines in the heat outside the arena, I still wanted to be there about 1 1/2 hours before the doors opened.

My husband, David, packed sunscreen, his hat and bottled water, and we drove right in and got the last handicapped parking spot in the nearby lot. (My mother just underwent a second MRI on her back; surgery is pending.)

However, we got to wait inside in the air conditioning with about a dozen other early people.

We met a group of women (and one man) from Louisville, Kentucky, and I took their photo for them. I told them my son just moved from Lexington to Spain, and one woman said of the two Kentucky cities: “We’re more artsy; they’re horsey, horsey, horsey.”

My mother, a retired schoolteacher and volunteer extraordinaire, made friends with a guy named Bailey at the media check-in table. They had a mutual friend who had been to the Clinton School of Public Service. I was not surprised when the next thing I knew, Mom was seated at the table, helping.

But after a while, I heard rumblings. We were in the wrong line. We wouldn’t be admitted. A blond woman with a clear aura of authority went up and down our line telling those of us without a blue pass hanging around our necks that we couldn’t get in through this entrance. I went up to a volunteer at the front of the line, and she said, “Do you have a ticket? Then I’ll scan your ticket. You can get in and go up on the elevator.”

But this other woman insisted that people without the pass had to go outside and start all over in line. One person could go in with the handicapped person, so David immediately volunteered to leave, and I stayed with Mom. There was confusion and a little chaos and frustration, although nobody made a scene.

When we did get in, we took an elevator up one level, and as we were filing into the arena, a dark-haired woman with striking blue eyes asked if she could sit with us because she was by herself. Her husband was working security.

We bonded with her, and it turned out she and my mom are in the same community organization, different chapters. The woman also has a daughter who goes to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and is an English major who is thinking about switching to journalism. Ding, ding, ding. My husband teaches journalism at UCA and is always looking for good recruits. I gave the woman his name. My mom and I shared stories and photos with her (more than Valarie wanted, I’m sure), and she showed us her beautiful family.

My husband ended up sitting in the section next to us. He waved. My daughter-in-law and her friend were above us in the first row of the upper bowl on the same side.

We enjoyed listening to a wonderful interview with the diminutive RBG, who “claims to be 5 feet tall,” interviewer Nina Totenberg said. The Supreme Court justice, just a few days removed from her last cancer treatment, looked frail, but her mind was razor sharp, her words quiet, perfectly spoken and with no memory lapses like I have every five minutes.

Afterward, my husband talked with Valarie, gave her his card and told her to have her daughter come see him.

I wouldn’t change anything about that night. I loved every minute and will remember it as the night I heard RBG and met Valarie. And I look forward to hearing that her daughter has signed up for one of my husband’s classes.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-5671 or


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