Long wait failed to faze many citizens

By Lynda Gorov, Globe Staff, 12/13/2000

OS ANGELES - Connie del Barba knows a thing or two about waiting.

As a Delta Airlines flight attendant, her job involves waiting for planes to arrive, waiting for planes to depart, and waiting on passengers angered over delays. Waiting on the US Supreme Court didn't faze her at all.

''I find the whole situation fascinating anyway,'' said del Barba, 46, and based in Chicago. ''Never in my wildest dreams did I think the country would be put to a test like this.''

Fascination and frustration, anxiety and ennui. The once-in-a-lifetime election has brought out many of the same emotions in voters that business travelers experience on a daily basis. Some enjoy the turbulence, others are sickened by it. Delays are unappreciated but expected.

At Los Angeles International Airport yesterday, dozens of salespeople, vacationers, and airline employees passing through the terminals said they hoped the Supreme Court would rule while they were in the air. They said they wanted one candidate or the other to land in the White House already.

They got their wish. Late last night the US Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court's decision to order hand recounts of ''undervoted'' ballots throughout the state. The justices added that there is not enough time to conduct a recount that that would pass constitutional muster.

After more than a month of postelection court fights in Florida and Washington, only a handful of commuters sounded in any particular rush. They tended to be supporters of Texas Governor George W. Bush.

''There is an anticipation, and my sense is people are generally frustrated,'' said Bush voter Alan Wilkerson, 41, a Los Angeles salesman en route to Oklahoma City for business. ''The subject is important, but the way we're getting there involves too much minutiae. It should have been over already.''

Said Gore voter Marcy Egemo, a Los Angeles lawyer headed to Hawaii on vacation, ''The impact is too important to rush. It's important that the votes in Florida should be recognized. But watching the tension between the two courts has been fascinating.''

Regardless of their presidential preference, most of the travelers gathering their bags or grabbing a midday snack expressed surprise that the election has taken so long to decide.

Gene Russo, a 48-year-old realt estate dealer from Orange County and a registered Republican who voted for Gore, had expected a president elected within a week of the Nov. 7 election, 10 days tops.

''I think we're just about getting to that time when it's over,'' said Russo, who was off to Austria. ''Let's put it this way: The law is proceeding as it should. But we're drawing to an end. Someone should be chosen already.''

Just back from Australia, with a three-hour layover until his flight home to Atlanta, retired executive James Rausch called Gore's demand for another recount ''baloney.'' While on vacation, he tried to ignore news reports of court decisions and overturned court decisions.

''We're glad we missed it all,'' said Rausch, 58, who declined to disclose his vote.

John Black, a 47-year-old general contractor from Colorado, however, has been happy to watch the feud from the sidelines. He voted for third-party candidate Harry Brown. He said he can't stand Bush or Gore, although he added that counting dimpled chads is wrong because voter intent is impossible to ascertain.

''The statesmanlike thing to do would've been for the two of them to get together and hammer out an agreement to recount the whole state,'' said Black, catching a flight to Hawaii with his grown son.

After 30 years in southeast Asia building government sponsored irrigation ditches and health care clinics, Louis Hale, 78 said he has come to believe that who is president matters less than who is in Congress. The last month has also made the San Antonio, Texas, resident him wonder what happened to all those absentee ballots he and his wife Norma cast over the decades.

Anne Beidleman said she didn't mind waiting for her own flight home to Dallas any more than she did for the election to end. A self-described liberal Democrat who voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, she said the long delay has helped Americans realize how much each individual vote counts. She also said it has helped demonstrate how much Gore and Bush are alike, with their teams of expensive lawyers.

''It's been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all this,'' said Beidleman, 44, an insurance company executive.