There are not many things that will motivate me to get up before sunrise, drive into the city and stand on line for more than two hours in the blistering heat. Especially not things that are a long shot.
But apparently this tall man whom I’ve never met, who wants to be our next president, has found a way to light a fire under my butt. So, Husband and I, in a moment of certain insanity, decided to attend the Labor Day rally in Detroit, featuring Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
We got up at 6 a.m. Took Girl from the East to grandma’s house and then paid exorbitant rates to park our car in the city. We raced to the riverfront on foot to find an already-long line that seemed to have no beginning and no end.
We found the beginning somewhere near the state line. As we attempted to gauge our progress in this line that wound around city blocks and twisted back onto itself so many times, we didn’t know if the people next to us were ahead of us or behind us. It was starting to feel like getting inside the plaza where Obama would speak would be a long shot.
Enter the bubble burster.
“You don’t have a yellow ticket? You not gettin’ in,” declared a somber woman in a baseball hat with some kind of unreadable badge around her neck. She seemed to take distinct pleasure in bursting balloons up and down the line.
Ticket?! Many of us were there based on an open e-vite from Mr. Obama himself. It clearly stated no tickets were needed. Later we learned the yellow tickets were given to all participants in the annual Labor Day Parade, who automatically earned line-jumping points for representing organized labor. Even later we learned that in order to get in to the rally, we should have been in line at 4:30 a.m. Oh, holy hell, no.
No matter. It was one of the biggest crowds we’d ever seen in Detroit. More than Thanksgiving Day. More than the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup parade. Geez, I guess we weren’t the only ones willing to sacrifice sleep for a chance to be a part of history. If nothing else, it was exciting to be a part of this wave, this movement, that was sweeping through this beaten-down town.
As always, I love to people watch. And this never-ending line offered a feast for the eyes. We saw a group of hung-over college girls who thought it was an underwear-optional rally. A little old lady wearing a large flowered hat, long flowing dress and leaning on an elegant cane. Lots of families with babies in tow. Lots of union workers. Lots of suburbanites with their Starbucks coffee cups. An older man stomping around on a walking cast. Religious zealots with loudspeakers. Drummers drumming incessantly. Black. White. Latino. Asian.
After waiting two hours and not even reaching the halfway point in the serprentine trail through the city, we received word: We didn’t make the cut. Surprisingly, the crowd simply turned on its heels and headed back to the waterfront. We positioned ourselves under the searing sun and in front of a large screen.
Oh, and there was Miss I-Told-You-So in her baseball cap and badge, shaking her self-righteous head at the foolish herd of sheep.
Hope motivated us to continue to wait. As the crowd thickened. As personal space thinned. As deodorants failed. After what seemed like an eternity, Obama took the stage and the screen came to life.
His talk was short and sweet. His planned speech was cast aside to reflect on Hurricane Gustav and its victims, and the need for brother to look after brother here and around the nation.
And then it was over.
Happy Labor Day, America. Good luck in November.