Senators, Out Standing In Their Field
If you pay any attention at all to the news or politics, you're aware that last Friday there was an event of earth-shattering import to no one in particular except a few people who are still holding grudges among the supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. An event in which the two, who until two weeks ago were treating each other like the single worst thing that could befall the United States (even including the remote chance that Richard Nixon might come back to life and drunkenly admit to the United States that he was its actual father) but who are now suddenly, through the magic of "politics" behaving as though each was a noble opponent and the single best thing (other than themselves) that could possibly ever befall the United States (including the even remoter chance that the United States could one day be offered a "threesome" with Jessica Simpson and Betty White (ok, I've got odd tastes, sue me)) would appear for the first time together on the same stage.
After a long and bitter primary battle (a primary being the process by which a large number of Democratic politicians lie to us while NOT in the direct conduct of the jobs we elected them for, and we are so appreciative that we reward them by choosing one of them to get beaten thoroughly by the Republican candidate in November), it was time to come together, and so for the sake of symbolism, they chose the town of Unity, New Hampshire for their first public event together (apparently "I Can't Stand You But I'll Smile Nicely For The Cameras Because It's My Job, Texas" was already booked for the Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie "Simple Life" reunion). Since the town of Unity is only about 15 minutes away from my home, I thought this was one of those "once in a lifetime" opportunities that come along once in… well, I can't think of a good metaphor, but not very often. Kind of like a "Woodstock" for my generation, but with fewer musical acts and a far smaller number of topless crowd surfers (although Hillary Clinton… no, I can't finish that, I almost threw up in my mouth a little bit just thinking about it).
In the interest of security, or more likely because the town of "Unity" has a total of three parking spaces, two behind the police station and one at the general store, attendees were asked to park in one of two convenient locations about fifty miles from the site and be "shuttled" to the event. It turns out that by "shuttled" they meant "packed onto every yellow bus from every school in a 100 mile radius, driven by people who treat potholes like pac man treats dots, making sure not to miss a single one", because there's nothing that really gets a large political event going like the entire audience one good lurch away from vomiting.
I thus parked my car at in the lot for the Mount Sunapee ski area (which is actually slightly further from my home than Unity is, but in a different direction) and got onto a line of people that stretched all the way back to my house. I thought this was a lot of people… until I arrived at the site of the event.
How to describe this…
My kids and I often play a game when we're on long car trips that we call "the American flag game", in which we count how many American flags we can spot during our trip. This game has many rules designed to minimize fights and keep me safely focusing primarily on avoiding the other cars on the road and only secondarily on verifying that each new flag is actually extant and not, technically, someone's laundry hanging in the back yard. One of these rules is that any single location with more than 5 flags is considered to be 5. This prevents me from having to try to verify a count at high speed or worse yet, having the kids demand that I pull over and count every last flag on every last antenna at the used car lot.
So, in the spirit of that game, you'll understand what I mean when I say that if everyone there (except Mr. Obama, of course) had been wearing a flag lapel pin, there would have been five flags there. A really really BIG five flags. The five-est flags I've seen yet. And none of them would have made it through the metal detector. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
One interesting thing I saw that I hadn't ever seen before was snipers, real honest-to-goodness snipers walking into the woods with nasty looking rifles and camouflage outfits and everything. I couldn't decide whether to feel incredibly safe or to keep checking my chest to make sure there wasn't a tell-tale red spot on it. I'll tell you, though, nothing dampens the urge to make wiseass comments while passing through security like the knowledge that there are high powered rifles trained in your general direction by sharpshooters who could probably shoot the wings off of a fly from half a mile away.
Security was vaguely similar to the TSA screening at the airport, except thorough and they took it really seriously. I have no doubt that I could, if I chose to, smuggle just about anything I chose onto an airplane. These guys found every conceivable possible weapon I was carrying. On the plus side, I don't need to have another prostate exam for another five years.
Nevertheless, apparently I don't look threatening, because they let me through at which point I became aware of several things:
- The entire event was outdoors
- There wasn't a spot of shade anywhere near where the two Senators would be speaking
- I had forgotten my sunscreen
- I had brought a bald scalp with me
So I looked around and found, conveniently located just as far away from the dais as humanly possible while still remaining technically at the event, a tiny little structure large enough to comfortably cast shade upon about 4 adults, under which 7 were currently standing, and made really close friends with a largish biker named Steve.
I have been remiss until this point in not giving you the full scope of the day. The busses began running at 10am. We were advised to show up no later than 9:30. Once they got us to the event site, the gates opened there at 11am. Senators Obama and Clinton were not scheduled to begin speaking until 1pm, which left a lot of time for Steve and me to get really close, but also for almost every other member of the crowd to form two lines, one for the food vending, and one for the port-a-potties, and since my little shady oasis was right next to where they were cooking, I'm not sure it wouldn't have been healthier if you’d gotten in the port-a-potty line with either goal in mind. But I digress.
Surrounding a central podium were several large bleachers that had clearly been rented, because the bottom of each was a trailer from which the seats had unfolded. Attached to these heavy steel structures were 30 foot tall metal poles atop which were high intensity lights, which had been brought because there were clouds rolling in and there was a chance it might get too dark to see the Senators, apparently because politicians and physics majors do not mix and no one considered that when it gets storm dark you sometimes get lightning, and when you do, the place you want to be is not the middle of a large open field on steel bleachers attached to large metal poles.
Sometime after one, Senators Clinton and Obama arrived, in much the same way that man arrived "sometime after" the universe formed. At least, I assume they were Senators Clinton and Obama, from my vantage point they could well have been former President Clinton in a wig and Ben Affleck in black face. Honestly at no point did my 42 year old eyes manage to get close enough to confirm that the shapes standing at the podium were, in fact, homo sapiens. But their voices (what I could hear of them) were pretty good approximations of the two I'd expected, so I'm willing to assume it was actually them.
Which, it only now occurs to me, means that I took a day of vacation from work and braved the indignity of school busses and the livestock mentality of repeated lines for an experience I could have completely and successful replicated with a couple of large sacks of potatoes and a boom box across a large field and a large, vaguely smelly man pressed up against me, and the only thing I really got out of it was an essay in which I find three different ways (including this one) to reference "upchuck". Woodstock indeed.
Except no topless potatoes.
Copyright © July 4, 2007 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com