“I don’t want to, Dad.”
“You’re committed now, babe,” a father says to his eight-year-old. They’re making tracks through the parking lot toward what looks like an angry hive of human-sized bees.
“But it’ll take forever.”
The kid’s prescient. The doors open at 9 a.m. at Palm Beach Community College and that's still some time away. Ninety minutes later, Barack Obama and his panel of experts are scheduled to talk about how to create jobs once the big O becomes president.
But you’ve got to leave the flair at the doors – pins, water bottles, signs, it’s all gotta go if you want to hear the man. “Cameras on, cell phones off people!”
“People think this is a rally; they’re going to be very disappointed,” an Obama volunteer quavers.
By 11 a.m. the temperature inside the gym is hovering around 90 and the crowd is using glossy eight-by-tens of Obama to fan themselves. The volunteers doing crowd control are ready to go ballistic: nobody wants to stay in their seat. Everybody wants to be in the aisle, where fire marshals have already almost come to blows with one guy who has crossed his arms, spread his legs, and refused to budge.
There aren’t enough seats in the bleachers for everybody with a ticket, much less the fans camped outside with numbers inked on the back of their hands. Like number 73, Cynthia Bolden Jarrell, who came off a double shift working as a tech at the VA hospital so she could stand around looking hopeful. There are 72 people without tickets in front of her but she’s not budging either.
All the bigwigs are here. Passels of pastors like Cheney, Johnson and Burrs from St. John’s, Mount Olive, and Peaceful Zion. President of the local NAACP Maude Ford Lee is here. County Commissioner Addie Greene, and Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas “Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork” Masters are already inside, along with the even bigger fish occupying seats to the left of the stage – Bill Nelson, Bob Graham, Alcee Hastings, Robert Wexler, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Jarrell is keeping company outside with a ticketless throng that includes two beleaguered McCain Palin volunteers, who explain that they’ve already been surrounded by a circle of furious Obama Mamas who tore off the ladies’ Palin pins and stomped on them. One Palinite confides, they’ve still managed to bring “five or six” lost sheep into the McCain fold. Their strategy? They’re revealing Obama’s middle name.
“People don’t even know his middle name is Hussein! And in fact, his real name isn’t Barack Obama at all, it’s Barry Soetoro. He just made up the Barack name later. I have the legal papers at home on my desk to prove this.” A few minutes later support shows up in the form of the McCainmobile.
Then there are the folks who follow Barack around like he’s a Phish concert. These guys in the picture below drove down from Tallahassee and they’re planning to go on to Miami later today. They’ve had their car towed twice. And needless to say, they’d never vote for McCain – “How’s the guy gonna push the button he can’t even lift his arms? We need a president who is not disabled.”
Never before has any election seen so many entrepreneurs printing and selling T-shirts, schwag, and trinkets – and don’t kid yourself, proceeds aren’t going to the Obama campaign.
Scott Jefferson figures he’s gonna clear about $600 from today’s panel discussion, selling his homemade t-shirts to the ticketless masses who don’t have a whole lot to do while they’re waiting around other than pick out their favorite bumper stickers.
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And then there are the folks who just can’t stand Katie Couric