Standing in line for seven hours in 2008
First published March 28, 2012
So, in August of 2008, I got a call asking if I would be interested in going to the Democratic National Convention. Well, let me think. Yes. The 2008 convention was in Denver, and I had been "jokingly" saying "Let's road trip out and just be there" I hadn't thought in a billion years we would get passes for Obama's Speech. But, Our friend Barry had a hotel room and offered us the chance to crash there and just BE there (He was working at the convention). So I hastily took two days off explaining to my boss at the time that I HAD to go, and not going was not an option. So, Brian and I loaded up my Grand Am that I had been driving since High School and made our way out west.
Wait....did I mention that gas prices were $4.00 at the time and we were broke as hell!
But, somehow I managed it. It was a pretty fun drive; we had no A/C, so I was on my death bed most of the time but, when the sun went down we were golden.
We pulled into downtown Denver, CO around 2 a.m. and found the hotel. We were instantly thrilled to be there when we saw this sign.
We made a nice little bed on Barry's hotel floor and were out. We had been driving all day and were exhausted. Just after I dozed of Barry came in and said we had to get up and come downstairs. We had to because lets face it when Barry suggests you do something do it. 1) It will be fun as hell and 2) It will be something that you talk about for years to come.
We made out way downstairs and sat outside with a bunch of politico's and had a few drinks. The night was beautiful, and the conversation was stimulating! We had a great time and made friends with one of the hotel security guards. I really couldn't go into a ton of detail on the conversations we had, but we laughed, and I learned a ton! Just about the time, the sun started to come up we made our way to bed. Barry graciously offered me the bed, and it was awesome! We woke up on the day of the speech. I was still totally unaware that we had passes, but I was thrilled just to be there.
We decided to walk around the hotel while Barry got some work done. The entire place was a buzz. It was exciting, to say the least. Once Barry had time for lunch we hopped the light rail downtown to eat and see what the atmosphere was like down there. When we got to the train platform, I spotted Joel Stein right away and had to take his picture. Brian still says he was a rando dude I creeped out but, you tell me.
We made it downtown to the Cheesecake factory.
Remember that episode of The Office when they have the Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure"? Okay, remember he eats a ton of Fettuccine Alfredo to "carbo load" before the 5k? Well, I had forgotten about this episode and decided PASTA will be my best idea for lunch! I will carbo-load after lunch we walked around downtown, and I kind of drug the boys all over looking for celebrities (Mainly Teddy Kennedy, even though he wouldn't be on the streets of Denver in the condition he was in! I'm. A. Moron.) They hated me and their lives at that moment but, I was walking on air. Finally, the boys told me we had passes and were going to the speech.
I could have passed out. Best. Day. Ever.
Finally it was about time to head off. We knew getting in would be no picnic so we would have to be there very early. This was about 12:30. Barry told us, he was going to head out and get away from the chaos. I was sad, and due to lack of sleep and my emotional state on overload...I cried. I was sad that he had honestly been so genuinely nice and given us this once in a lifetime experience. I was sad he had given it to me on a silver platter, and he was going to miss it. But, he had Whit at home who had missed everything due to school so, I understood. He got us to the light rail and sent us on our way.
Here is where it gets fun.
We rode the way to the crowded train filled to the brim with the smell of BO, bad cologne, and general giddiness. We were told to get off about 2 miles from Invesco because everything was shut down from there on. The train, the interstate, the buses, everything. Ah, no problem. We hopped off and started our walk. I was still walking on air until we saw the sight before us. Thousands trying to get around and thousands more protesters. There were protesters against Obama in general, against weed, for weed (the chant of Marijuana Saved my life, was my favorite of the day) for Obama, and the most ludicrous and hilarious, STOP BIRD PORN. Yep, that was a thing they were against, and they were there to stop it. What is bird porn I asked one of the ladies? "You people watch birds mate, its wrong and disgusting" Brian grabbed me, mad that I was feeding into this craziness.
We got to the next group that was protesting something, and I immediately got into a huge fight. I was yelling with a few others in their faces all full of fire, and again Brian grabbed me and ripped my ass for feeding into it. I kept yelling at them until we got near the stadium. It was beautiful! I was almost there, two miles of yelling and fighting in this August heat and now I was near. Hallelujah!
We were standing in front of Invesco when we rounded the corner. Oh. My. God. People in line everywhere! We would get to one spot to stand only to find out, no keep going the line doesn't end here. We walked around for about an hour before we found the end of the line. We got there and expected to be there a few hours. I was tired, hot, thirsty, and blerching a garlic/Alfredo mixture. Blunderous.
Brian is in this photo, somewhere. He was kind enough to stand alone while I took to a hill in the shade for an hour. I sat with a man who kept photographing me laying down moaning to nobody in particular about how thirsty and hot I was. Finally, after the 5th or 6th photo, I popped up and bit his head off. We ended up making friends and chatting. He worked for the AP and said this was the most disorganized mess he had ever witnessed. He was happy to be working, and have a direct to door pass. (bastard) After a little over an hour, I relieved Brian so he could rest.
Back on the hill. I kindly named it Hell Hill. About 6 hours in, I was weak, burned, pale, and so dehydrated I could hardly stand. The only thing getting me through at this point was adrenaline. About 20 minutes after this photo gobs of police officers showed up with cases of warm bottled water. They first walked around handing it to anyone who looked a bit weak. Luckily I was one of the first. I downed four bottles in about 10 minutes. Finally, everyone around us had water, and we were all so relieved. I know a few of us discussed how we might not make it, but for our spouses to please go on without us. It was very dramatic, but when you are in the state we were in...you would start to talk crazy too.
I knew we were going to miss it all. And here come the tears. I cried. I cried like a big dumb girl. I couldn't do it anymore. Just as my fit was about to hit the fever pitch, the line started to move!
WE ARE MOVING. Oh, and Brian is having to almost hold me up. During the hustle of finally moving, I got my second wind. I was on air again. We were so close, oh you stupid girl. We were not close. We still had miles to cover, and if we didn't keep up, we were f'ed to put it lightly. So, I'm huffing, near tears, bitching as loud as I can as we weave in and out of the weirdest places. Up some wooden steps, down some wooden steps, by the meth den again, back to the parking lot where I nearly died, in front of the stadium, around the stadium, down a hill, along a fenced-in sidewalk, up a hill, down another hill, under an overpass and finally to the tents. TENTS! SWEET TENTS. One problem, Brian has to pee. No, not the time. Brian when we get in, we will pee, eat, drink and it will be GLORIOUS! HOLD IT. Nope, he had to find the ONE port-a-potty in Denver to use (clearly they were prepared) I didn't have to go because of my severe dehydration. (lucky me) back to the tents.
Is that Al Gore speaking?
And here came the biggest break down of my life. I was yelling at the secret service to hurry up. (stupid of me!) But, 50% of me being there was Al Gore. If I missed him, game over.
We got into the stadium, and guess who's seats were on the entire other side? Yep, I grabbed Brian demanding he run like hell. I was crying, yelling and having a mental breakdown. We got to our seats and sat for the first time in 7 hours. Brian said he was going to get food, and I stayed for the end of the Al Gore Speech.
See, he knew I was there and waved at me. Sooooo worth it.
I asked a random dude to take our picture. Me and Al Gore that is. I had gotten to hear the last of his speech and sat back and enjoyed some Stevie Wonder, Will.I.Am., John Legend, Sheryl Crow, and Michael McDonald. This was when devastation and chaos ensued.
What do you mean no food? What do you mean they closed the concession stand? Panic.
"Brian, I may die. I'm starving and thirsty."
I'm a bit dramatic when I'm hungry. Anyway, in all reality when Biden got up there to speak everything from the day just faded away. I had just my tiny little $100 Kodak camera to document, and about 40 charged batteries and ten memory cards for the entire event. I was worried I would miss something. I zoomed in on every famous person just to watch them and had fun watching Wolf Blitzer, and Anderson Cooper do their stuff live. That was a good way to pass the time in between speakers.
After Biden was the Main Event. Barack Obama. The man we had nominated as the Democratic Candidate for President of The United States. The emotion and thrill are almost too much to describe. I couldn't have been happier. The patriotism, excitement, and joy of it all was overwhelming.
The speech was perfect, our spirits were soaring, and I knew that this was one of the greatest days of my life. After his last word, Fireworks started, and confetti dropped.
I knew at the moment all was right with the world. I couldn't stop grinning. I told Brian, this is something we will tell our grandchildren about.
It. Was. amazing.
After Obama had gotten off stage, it was time to leave. I told Brian I wanted to wait it out a bit so; we walked around soaking everything in. We stopped and talked to Scott Kleeb who was running for Senate in Nebraska. I had done some work for him, and either he is great at BS'ing me, or he remembered me. Either way that was fun. We chatted with him for a bit.
The place cleared out very quickly. We gathered some confetti and took some pics before we headed out.
If we only knew.
We walked out with an average size group of people. Wait. Did we know how to get back to the hotel? It couldn't be that far. We would just walk out, find a train or group to follow and hoof it.
HA HA HA. Jokes on us.
We were cattle. We were trapped in a fenced-in parking lot.
Hilarity, Panic, and Riots ensued.
People were freaking out; I was just watching it all godown. It was like an out of body experience. We were surely going to die here. Cops were everywhere, sirens, pitch black in some spots, bright lights shining on us in others. It was a bit like that scene in War of the Worlds.
We were told over a loudspeaker after an hour of just watching everyone freak out that we could cross that Bridge, and head one mile to the train station. Oh, My God. Another mile in my fragile state. Crap. Before we could even wrap our heads around what was said, people broke the fence down, and we took off for the break. We made it through the fence, across the bridge, and into pitch black.
We could hear people and were following people just praying we were going the right way. We started under some overpasses and could hear so many sirens. Someone said, there goes Obama. We looked up and saw the motorcade as it approached the overpass. Some lady said, well I can now say Barack Obama was on top of me. We laughed and rounded a corner with vendors galore. What they were doing was beyond me but, I was in. I like my crap. I told Brian, I hadn't gotten anything for my sister, so I had to stop. $40 and many shirts, donkey plush dolls, buttons and "crap" later I was ready to go again. About an hour of walking got us to the train station. We both sighed a breath of relief...and then waited. An hour and a half later we boarded a train. We were almost the last ones in line, so the train wasn't too packed. We were exhausted and just sat in silence. I leaned my head on the window watching it all go by. I did laugh and tell Brian, hey at least we didn't drive.
Weak, tired, hungry, dehydrated, and hot we walked into the hotel. My head was pounding so hard from the heat and lack of water that I almost couldn't bare it. Brian insisted on finding food. I lay down in bed and turned on the TV to watch the CNN coverage while he was off. It was almost 2 a.m., and somehow he had talked a guy into making us some hot wings in the hotel restaurant.
God Bless That Man.
Brian made it back, and my eyes were swollen from a migraine by this point. I had some ice on my face trying to get it under control. We still didn't talk about the day, just sat on the bed with our hot wings. I got one down and picked up the next one......
The phone rang. It was morning. I had fallen asleep while eating. This is unheard of! It was a friend calling to say turn on the TV. John McCain was announcing Sarah Palin as his running mate.
We packed our bags, showered and were ready to head out. We were still tired and weak but were excited to see Alex. Through Denver we got lost trying to find food. Denver hated us and wanted us to starve to death. We finally found a Walmart and grabbed food there. Desperation stinks.
After our Walmart brunch, we made it to Nebraska and hit a Village Inn. That was incredible times ten! We walked in our door around 2 a.m. I made my mom get up so I could show her our pictures and tell her all about it.
Still four years later I get giddy talking about it or thinking about it. The day Alex was born was the best of my life the 36 hours I spent in Denver is the second best day 1/2 I have ever had.
I hope I get the chance to attend another Convention again, even if it's cleaning up puke. I have never felt more alive or "at home" as I did there. I was born to do something in politics. Too bad I have a crippling fear of public speaking.
Oh well, that is my story of how I spent 7 hours in line.
Even better, I spent 4 hours in line a few months before this in Omaha in January to see Obama speak. That time I was about 10 feet in front of him and shook his hand. I was wearing a button I had custom made about Huskers for Obama. It fell off as I was shoved toward him after his speech. I grabbed it in my hand and when I when to shake his hand...he grabbed it out of mine, Held my hand, looked at it, smiled and said thank you to me.
I need a reminder of that some days.