Riding an Election Night Roller Coaster at the Wing

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Riding an Election Night Roller Coaster at the Wing

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At 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the Wing was brimming with promise. Seated behind the club’s front desk in the Flatiron district was Audrey Gelman, 29, wearing an “I Came to Break Hearts” baseball cap and a pink T-shirt that read “Madam President.”

The Wing is a social club exclusively for women, founded by Ms. Gelman and her business partner, Lauren Kassan. And it was primed for moments like this, when about 175 women had gathered to watch what they thought would be a crowning event: Hillary Clinton being named the first female United States president.

Ms. Gelman, a former public relations strategist who worked with Scott M. Stringer when he successfully ran for New York City comptroller in 2013, was watching a live stream from NBC on her laptop. She greeted a steady parade of 30-somethings pouring out of the 12th-floor elevator, giving each of them a warm hug. Lady Gaga blared overhead as Ms. Gelman whispered to a bystander, “I’m just trying to make sure nothing goes off the rails.”

“I’m a businesswoman now,” she said. “I never see men anymore. I get on the subway and it’s like, wow.”

Most of the women clustered on couches, laughing and clutching glasses of wine while watching Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie on a big screen. Some women wore white pantsuits; others slapped “I Voted” stickers onto their lapels. Mostly, though, they buzzed about what they hoped would be a historic moment.

A group of four women took a selfie in front of a large mirror in the powder room. Other posed in front of posters of Mrs. Clinton. The room was so festive that Ms. Gelman instructed two of her colleagues to get more wine, just in case.

“A pre-emptive strike,” said Marianna Martinelli, the community director and general manager for the Wing.

Ms. Gelman looked at her iPhone. In 2008, she worked on Mrs. Clinton’s first campaign for president. “I’m in a group text with my family,” she said. “We are kind of neurotic.”

At about 9, NBC announced that Mrs. Clinton was projected to win New York. The room roared. Minutes later, the cheers turned to boos when Mr. Holt called Texas for Mrs. Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump. Ms. Gelman put a soothing arm around a friend. “She’s from Texas,” she said.

Around 30 minutes later, Ms. Gelman shut the music off so everyone could hear incoming vote counts. NBC was reporting that Virginia, thought to be safely in the Clinton camp, was tighter then expected. And swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan were in play. Ms. Gelman checked her iPhone. “My in-laws are freaking out,” she said.

Women stared blankly at the television screen; virtually none of the polls had predicted this. Excited chatter died to a worrying murmur. Sofia Langan, 25, burrowed into a comfy buttercup chair. “My dad keeps sending me texts, and he said, ‘Don’t worry,’” she said. “I talked to him on the way over and he said: ‘Don’t worry. She is going to win.’” She was no longer convinced.

The cases of wine arrived. “I’m nervous,” Ms. Gelman said. She bit her fingernail.

“This doesn’t feel so good,” Ms. Langan said.

As the evening dragged on, the women turned to one another for answers. “What do you think?” Ms. Gelman asked a bystander. “I think it is a lot closer than anyone expected.” At a loss as to how to comfort one another, they looked at their smartphones. “The Detroit Free Press says it’s for Hillary,” Ms. Gelman said of Michigan, which was still too close for NBC to call. “But I haven’t seen the Associated Press results yet.”

She has been involved in elections before. And if Mrs. Clinton won Michigan, at least there was a path to victory. “It doesn’t feel any different,” she said about being at the Wing compared to campaign headquarters. “It’s physical. High touch. It is a community, and it’s a new one.”

She added, “I think everyone feels vulnerable.”

Her phone rang. “It’s my mom,” she said. She had a worried look on her face.

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As it got closer to 10, the crowd searched the faces of the NBC announcers for clues.

“I have to remind myself to breathe,” said Jennifer Goldszer, 32, who works in marketing at a clothing company.

A photograph of Ivanka Trump flashed on the television screen. Some women booed. The impending loss was beginning to sink in. “I think I am having an anxiety attack,” said Christina Collura, talking to Ms. Goldszer.

Natalie Coppa, 24, was buried in her iPhone. “Politico called Florida for Trump!” she shouted. Catherine Holland wrapped her arms around her daughter Emma, who works at the Wing. “We voted together,” Emma said.

When California, Hawaii, Oregon and Virginia were called for Mrs. Clinton, the crowd cheered. But their joy lasted only minutes as it became clear that Mrs. Clinton’s chances of becoming the next president were fading. The women now faced the prospect of a Trump presidency.

By 11:30 stragglers headed for the elevator. “We now are second-class citizens,” one woman said to her friend. When Rudy Giuliani was interviewed on NBC, the crowd booed again. “Just stop talking,” a woman shouted at the screen.

Ms. Gelman surveyed the room, picking up stray plates of leftover pizza and glasses drained of wine. “We won’t know anything tonight, and we shouldn’t stay too late,” she said. She hugged a friend. After she finished cleaning, she was going to go see her mother.

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