It was 7 p.m. on a Tuesday, my last-gasp deadline for finishing my assignments. I had just inherited an important story to do, with about 10 minutes for research and writing. The topic was the decision made at an out-of-town governmental hearing late that afternoon.
I wasn’t there, because I had about five other significant stories to write that day, and neither was another reporter who had been going to cover the meeting but was pulled away for another assignment.
Welcome to my job.
I hastily phoned and emailed some of the people who attended the session. (I love my cadre of sources!) They told me what happened at the meeting, approximately how many concerned folks attended, how many of them spoke and about what.
I even found out who made the motion to approve the action being discussed.
But nobody could remember who seconded the motion. Nobody.
Not even the motion maker.
Seconding a motion is like being the second child, the silver medal winner, vice president or the guy who almost made it to the top of Mount Everest … an also-ran, Costanza on “Seinfeld” or Doc on “Gunsmoke.”
And that’s not fair, you know. A motion without a second is an idea that’s all dressed up with no place to go. The person who seconds the motion is the one who really takes it to the most important level: The vote.
Poor second banana.
Maybe it would be better to be third. At least then you’re at the end of the sentence about the medal winners, and lots of people remember the very last thing they read.
And then there is sibling birth order.
In a way, I grew up as an only child, the youngest of two kids and the baby in a trio of relatives.
Confused yet? Try it from my side.
I am the only offspring of my mother, who was an only until she was 19, when her half sister Kate was born two years before I was.
In some ways, Kate and I were as close as many sisters, but we didn’t have the daily sibling battles about sharing the toothpaste, fighting over who got to use the shower first or even sharing school experiences each night — she was in a private school.
Even so, I got a taste of what it was like to be second fiddle.
Kate always got to do things I couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to do. She got the gifts I wanted that weren’t yet “appropriate for a girl your age” or were too expensive for our budget. She could stay up later, and — from my younger vantage point — she had a lot more control over her own life.
Fiction, I know. But that’s how it seemed to me at the time.
However, being second banana wasn’t nearly as bad as being the “little kid” in a group of three.
Kate also has a nephew, John, who is four years older than she is. We three weren’t together all that often, although his Long
Island home base wasn’t all that far away from southeastern Westchester County, where Kate and I grew up.
But, as my kids love to tell me, car travel wasn’t as easy in the dark ages.
Whenever John, Kate and I were in the same household, mayhem often ensued. Two against one.
Guess who was usually the “one.”
It never failed, whether we were playing Scrabble, croquet or hide-and-seek, fighting over the dictionary or the last cookie. Two against one. Monkey in the middle. Third fiddle.
And it never ends. That’s OK. I’m getting my revenge. These days, when I’m feeling sibling evil, I send them birthday cards that flaunt the fact that now, when it really matters, I’m still younger than they are.
But back to that last-minute assignment I had to write about the meeting I hadn’t attended.
Did I ever find out who seconded the motion? Yes. I was so doggedly determined to find the answer that to find out, off deadline, I watched an interminable video of the meeting, which I hadn’t had time to do in researching for the 11th-hour, deadline’s-here writing of the story.
But my hard-fought discovery never made it into print. Sorry, second fiddle. Maybe next time.