ARLINGTON, Va. — In 2003, the front-end supervisor of the Pentagon City Costco warehouse managed crowd-flow at a signing for Living History.
More than 10 years later, in Costco's aisle 130, the same staffer was on the warehouse floor again, ushering in more than 1,000 fans who waited in line for signed copies of Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton's second memoir.
The scene at the big-box retailer, located just outside Washington, D.C., featured more familiar faces for Clinton, who autographed hardbacks for more than three hours on Saturday. Hundreds of copies were stacked on crates to Clinton's left and right, with bulk-sized boxes of beach towels and water bottles piled behind her. Staffers had siphoned off an enclave of the store for the book signing, lining the outer section with a wall of Kirkland-brand paper towels.
Seated at a desk draped in a black tablecloth, Clinton spotted an old colleague in line: Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon and Democratic congressman from Georgia, who stopped by unannounced. Clinton exclaimed upon seeing Lewis approach her table and leaned in to grab his hand. "God bless you, my friend," she said, leaving her signature and a personalized note inside his copy of the book.
On his way out, Lewis told a group of reporters, "I come to this store and shop, and I wanted to come by and say hello to Mrs. Clinton. She's a very good friend."
An hour later, well after television cameras and photographers had left, Clinton received another surprised guest: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Sotomayor said she'd stumbled on the signing while "just shopping." She wore flip-flops, glasses, and a short-sleeve tee-shirt, striped black and white.
An aide guided her from a back entrance to the table, where Clinton stood up and laughed. "I don't believe this!" she said. "I'm so glad to see you." The women exchanged a brief conversation, mostly out of earshot. Clinton could be heard saying to Sotomayor, who also wrote a memoir last year, "I loved yours."
The Costco signing concluded Clinton's first week on tour to promote Hard Choices. The book, which came out on June 10, sold at a discount here on Saturday for $18.99, nearly 50% off the retail price. An official said the Arlington location gained 164 new Costco memberships as a result of the event.
A steady stream of fans cycled through the line as morning stretched into afternoon: supporters urged her to run for president; volunteers and staffers from her last campaign exchanged familiar hellos; and the co-founder of Costco, Jim Senegal, wearing his company name tag, even stopped by Clinton's table. (Like Sotomayor, he said he had also been in the store on Saturday by chance.)
Clinton also received a visit from the family: her brother Tony Rodham's young son and daughter came with their grandmother, Tony's mother-in-law, and sat next to Clinton for the last hour of the signing, helping her stack books.
Clinton did not take questions from the press, but her exchanges with attendees, short and pleasant, could be heard in bits and pieces.
"Hi, nice to meet you. Thank you for coming," she greeted one.
"No, that's the way democracy works," she said in response to another.
And another: "When are you getting married?"
And another: "It's going OK."
And another: "It turned out to be a beautiful day."
When one of the last fans in line asked if she had time for a "selfie," Clinton said, "Turn around, quick." The young girl rotated, held her phone in the air, and captured the shot with Clinton smiling in the background.
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ruby Cramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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