Award ceremonies can be awkward at the State House.
They are often a way for legislators to use unsuspecting members of the public as props to flog the opposition.
The scene of a citizen beaming shy, irrepressible recognition of a peak-life experience, is contradicted by the utterly bored, rude reception of the lawmakers, who shuffle papers, pursue sideline conversations, and basically occupy themselves with anything, rather than dignify the occasion. If one of them pays attention too closely and gets lost in someone’s particular story, he could lose the sense of irony, and end up feeling very foolish when it becomes apparent that the joke is on him. Of course, if the people being honored are from one’s own district, fine. The politician can muster a tight smile or rapt attention. A show of teeth is good for a vote. Otherwise, forget it.
Mostly it’s party against party, of course.
Sometimes it’s a battle of the sexes.
Thursday’s particular opening ceremony in the Assembly carried a blunt edge of discomfort for the males in the room, because the women were using the well to talk about women.
"You really don’t know how difficult and lonely it is to be a leader, and a woman," Assemby Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman told the mostly male audience.
There was restless activity as usual, but irritation was visible on some of the men’s faces, evidence they were trying to discern where it had gone wrong.
I went to college, law school, medical school. All of that to sit here and feel as though I’m getting lectured back in elementary school?
It was Nancy Pelosi all over again, boiled down to the state level.
And it kept coming, wave after wave.
"The common thread is that these women have all been first," announced Joan Quigley, the Assemby Majority Conference Leader.
"We love as women to kick up some dust, don’t we?" an honoree offered as a rejoinder.
Republicans were very nearly biting their fists in agony at one point because the women being honored were union sisters, and their hosts made smiling speeches on their behalf that under it all vilified anyone with a record unfriendly to unions.
The male bash-fest at an end, one man stood forth.
"I’m a little afraid after being told we’re going to get kicked in the dust," said Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald.
He was a brave man amid the laughter.