Monday, July 16, 2012

waiting for obama

This and all the following pics were taken by my friend Lisa.  Thanks for sharing Lisa!

According to NPR, VA is "the new Ohio."  Finally, after years of election day obscurity, we'll get some attention! 

Being in a swing state means your phone rings off the hook and attack ads crowd your TV.  But it also means the president himself might come a-knocking to personally ask you for your vote.

That's how I ended up waiting for Obama.

Last Thursday, I arrived at Obama's local campaign office right on time: 5:30.  That's when ticket distribution was scheduled to begin for the presidential rally I hoped to attend on the coming Saturday. 

Did I think I would stroll in and carelessly collect said tickets as if I were seeking admission to a JV soccer game?

Yesiree, I did.  Sometimes I surprise even myself with my naivete.

By the time I arrived, the line had begun to wrap itself around the building for the second time.  I had told Olivia I'd pick her up from the pool in an hour. 

Not so.

I showed up without sunscreen, without water, without a plan.  The only thing I'd brought was resolve.  I wanted to see our president.  My line-mates were similarly unprepared and similarly committed.  No one talked of leaving.  Instead, we looked in our hats for entertainment, chatted about healthcare reform, and joked nervously about right wing extremism.  Standing together in that throng, we felt strong and full of promise. 

After an hour, a volunteer informed us that we had virtually no chance of getting tickets.  Oddly, we weren't swayed.  We just shrugged and stayed--feeling hopeful just in the do-nothing of waiting.  Waiting for Obama. 

As the hour dragged on, and the sun beat down, we supported each other in our quest.  People bought and shared water, took turns leaving to use the bathroom, and strategized about where to get dinner.

After three hours of standing, word came that they only had 50 tickets left.  We were about 150 people back, but still we stayed.  When we heard that the tickets were gone, we didn't want to believe it.  Someone speculated that the messenger was an imposter.  The family behind me left reluctantly.  I hesitated.  Another woman from the campaign confirmed the news.  The older man next to me put his hands in his pockets, resolving:  "I'm not leaving until I get to the door."  Some dispersed.  Others held on. 

Finally, I went home, disappointed, but surprisingly bolstered.  After all the comaraderie, I felt as if I'd already been to the rally.

I was just explaining this to Steve when a friend beeped in to tell me she'd gotten an extra ticket.  Bolstered or not, I would go to the rally after all! 

So Saturday afternoon I found myself in a familiar situation: Waiting for Obama. 

This time I stood in a line that wrapped around a parking lot instead of a building.  Again we waited with uncertainty.  Despite having tickets, would we all get in?  And even if we did, would we get shuffled into overflow where rumor had it we'd watch it all on TV? 

Relishing the shade of one lone tree, we kept the faith.  We talked about our common politics and gazed, a little dumbfounded, at the group of protesters who had assembled across the street.  One held a bullhorn through which he occasionally said, "no more debt" in an oddly subdued voice.  Many held homemade signs that protested Obama's policies.  None of them advertised a pro-Romney message or agenda.  The party of "no" in action. 

I looked down the line of people in front of me and saw so many welcome contrasts to the all white and mostly over-40 crowd across the way.  We came in all manners of beige, brown, black, yellow and white.  We had dressy, preppy, casual, grungy and cool in our line.  We had babies, kids, teens, parents and grandparents.  We laughed and celebrated.  We anticipated.  Despite being hot, thirsty and tired, no one complained. 

I know these contrasts do not represent a scientific cross-section of party demographics, but even so, I relished my place in the Obama camp.

After three hours of standing in line, we finally gained entrance to the school gym where a variety of people spoke before the announcement came that "The POTUS is in the house!" 

Music blared.  Cameras whipped out. 

Really? I thought.  Would he come dancing in?

No.  The song finished without an appearance and another started.  And another.  We helped the lady with the baby.  We made room for the kids to stand in front; we speculated about the delay; we bounced on our toes; we strained our necks.  We waited for Obama. 

And finally, he showed:

And, of course, it was awesome.  I've never seen a president in person before.  That was thrilling enough, but to see President Obama, who has such command to inspire at the podium, filled me with hope about the upcoming election.  I needed him to do that.  I expected him to do that. 

What I hadn't expected was that I would feel equally inspired and equally hopeful before he ever showed, as I came together with so many likeminded people.  I hadn't expected that I would get so much positive energy while simply waiting for Obama.


  1. Wow, after coming from Comic-Con in San Diego, your description of the waiting sounds similar. And while I never would wait in line to meet the guys from "The Bing Theory," seeing, and maybe even meeting the President sounds so intriguing.

    And as someone in VA, 15 minutes from DC, I have eschewed the idea of doing that, not unlkike my hesitance to see the Washington Monument, or Jefferson Memorial, except when fiends or family are in town.

    1. hey john,
      yes, i've never been a very starstruck person. this is the first time i've ever waited in a line like this to see anyone. but seeing the president was definately cool! it was worth it.