Eagerness fills the room -- nearly 70 freshman congressman sit and wait to begin the process of selecting their first House office. Most of the fresh faces exchange pleasantries and glad-hand one another in anticipation of the drawing.
But Republican Congressman-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas sits quietly, hunched over in his chair, looking at a mix of maps and papers he has assembled -- all aimed to optimize the search process. Each available office is listed on a spreadsheet in front of him which is just waiting to be scrawled on.
Even when incoming Rep. Julia Brownley of California picks No. 1 in the lottery -- which elicits applause and a few "Hey, yo" shouts from the back of the room -- Cotton claps but remains focused.
Cotton has devised a rating system and applied it to his spreadsheet. The offices will be rated from one to four on a number of factors -- size of the office, availability for a conference room and view. It is also important that the office be close to Rayburn -- a building considered the power center of the House, due to the powerful lawmakers who have officers there and the number of committee rooms inside.
Cotton, 35, is looking for the perfect office -- down to the color of the walls and drapes -- even though these bottom of the barrel selections are unlikely to meet all of his expectations.
Freshmen generally get the worst offices in the House. Once more, senior members have moved up and returning "freshman" -- people who were once in the House but lost an election at some point -- have selected their offices. The few offices that are left generally have noticeable downsides.
"Mr. Cotton drew number 37," says the events reader.
Cotton and his staff were then off, running from office to office. His nearly 6'5" stride makes the pace frenetic.
"I don't usually walk this fast," he joked while leading a march up Independence Avenue.
It is hard to believe this is out of the ordinary for Cotton, a marathoner and former Army Ranger.
Cotton and his staff visit nearly all available offices in both Cannon and Longworth House Office buildings over the next few hours.
Cotton appears to have an aversion to elevators. He opts for stairs - two at a time, forcing his shorter-legged staffers to really move it to keep up.
Cotton's office search speaks volumes about the path that brought him to Congress -- and possibly the legislator he may become.
'Who is that?'
The offices that Cotton will be touring will soon be vacated by people leaving or moving to better ones because of their seniority. A typical suite has the member's office, an entry room with desks and area for legislative staff. Though this is the standard, layout, color and size can vary.
After looking at the first few offices, the pattern is set for how Cotton will rate his choices. He begins by quickly and deliberately opening the office front door and smiling as he passes a puzzled staffer.
"Hi," he says. "I am a new member of Congress looking at offices. Is that the member's office?"
Cotton knows the answer. But before the young staffer can answer, he's in the member's office, switching his focus from his spreadsheet to the size and layout.
Cotton quickly scans each office, eliciting quizzical glances from occupants who don't recognize him as a new member of Congress.
That shouldn't be a surprise because he wasn't expected to be here.
When he got into the 4th Congressional District race in Arkansas, he trailed in some polls by more than 35 points. On November 6, he won by more than 20%.
But while he was a long shot at first, many Republican operatives say Cotton's resume should have tipped off a future in politics.
He graduated from Harvard with honors with a degree in government and then went back to the Ivy League school for his law degree. For a short time, Cotton clerked at the U.S. Court of Appeals and worked for a law firm in Washington.
But he decided to serve his country frollowing the September 2001 terror attacks on the United States.
Cotton served five years of active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne in Baghdad and an operations officer with a reconstruction team in eastern Afghanistan.