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On Saturday before Christmas, it's shopping not TV Not everyone tuned in to the political spectacle


Well, it happened. We knew it was going to happen.

But we've got shopping to do and football games to watch.

Such was the sentiment expressed yesterday in area shopping malls, athletic centers and restaurants as the House of Representatives impeached President Clinton.

At the Austin Grill in Canton, two televisions mounted 20 feet apart over the bar broadcast the impeachment proceedings and the Buffalo Bills-New York Jets football game. Having a midafternoon drink, Andy Himes and his two sons were decidedly focused on athletics.

"The game is more unpredictable," said the elder Himes, a 44-year-old Canton attorney. "We know what the outcome of the House's actions are."

Despite events barely 35 miles south in Washington, most residents yesterday went about their business.

Though most expressed strong opinions about whether the president should stay or go, many were admittedly bored by the hours-long proceedings that had been exhaustively foreshadowed.

"We've been watching the same crap for how many months now?" asked Paul Suplee, 30, a Parkville legal assistant shopping at The Avenue at White Marsh yesterday. "I'll read about it in the paper tomorrow."

Elsewhere at White Marsh, patrons dawdled over steaming cups at Donna's coffee bar and stood in line at Loew's Theatre to watch "A Bug's Life."

Rosena Jones, 35, of Cockeysville picked over gift baskets at Cosmetic Center and said she fears the historic vote could have larger, damaging effects, such as undermining the economy and sparking unemployment.

"This is going to affect our whole lives," she said. "I can only speculate, because this has never happened before. But it's going to have an impact."

Still, even if she were home, she wouldn't watch the televised proceedings

But not everyone was boycotting the broadcasts.

At The Mall in Columbia, George Tresnak, 51, of Ellicott City, caught his breath as the first article of impeachment passed. "This is really quite a historic moment," he said.

Patricia McKee, 47, walking through Sears in Columbia, stopped at one of the impeachment televisions. "Wait," she told her 11-year-old son. "I want to hear this."

Hecht's salesman David P. Glass left his post in the linens department to catch the House votes on TV and chat with a customer, Donald Wyvell, 74, of Columbia.

Joseph S. Conley Jr., 38, a network engineer, was studying televisions at the Columbia Sears to judge the quality of the picture, not the president.

He picked out a 19-inch model for his daughter and did not linger to watch the voting. "I'm not interested in things like that," he said.

Back at White Marsh, a newcomer to the country admitted most of his customers at Pier One Imports seemed scarcely concerned with the events of the day. But he had much on his mind.

"For some of us who have had experiences with governments that are not sensitive to the will of the people, this country is a model of democracy," said Joel Meitame, 35, an immigrant from Kenya who is also an environmental consultant.

"But what I'm seeing is that a lot of people didn't want the president to be impeached," he said. "Now, I just question what democracy is in a country like this one."

Pub Date: 12/20/98

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