On Tuesday, my favorite local politician, Tim Kaine, came to Richmond to speak for the first time after becoming Hillary Clinton's running mate. As an intern with the Democratic party, I had the privilege of helping to ensure that the event ran smoothly.
Ensuring that it runs smoothly? For me, a lowly intern with no prestige whatsoever, that essentially meant I stand out in the sunny, eighty-eight degree weather from 2:30 to 7:30 ensuring that attendees were signed in. More on that later.
Of course I was excited when I found out that I would be going to a Kaine rally. I'm not one to miss a political event nearby, I even (tried) to see Marco Rubio earlier this year. I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing a politician I sort of agree with speak in my area. But in complete honesty, this event was totally garbage for me. As soon as I got there, I wished that I hadn't come. No amount of Tim Kaine's gentle jokes could change my mind.
I woke up on Monday, August 1st in a good mood. I saw an email that said to be at the event location at 2:30 dressed in business casual. Cool! Maybe I would get to meet Senator Kaine! I got dressed, head over to Panera, ate some bread with Elizabeth, always a 10/10 lunch. Then it was time for me to leave for Richmond, full of excitement. I listened to Neutral Milk Hotel in the car and everything seemed to be going nicely. Yay! Then I got to the high school where the event was taking place. Uh-oh, all the entrances are blocked off with cones! No big deal, I'll just park in the middle school parking lot right next door, it's a little bit of a walk but that's alright, it's a beautiful day outside.
I exited my car and began the walk. I looked to my right and saw that the lot I had parked in was being closed off to the public. That could be a problem, I thought, but decided to deal with it later. I had a job to do. What that job was, I didn't know yet, but I had a job to do nonetheless.
About fifteen minutes later I arrived at the front of the high school. There were a lot of people from the Secret Service there. I asked if I could go inside, as I was an intern with the party and I was almost certain that my organizer told me to meet inside the gym. Well apparently that was a really stupid thing to do because they laughed at me and told me no way. I then questioned if I was even in the right location at all as I leaned against a wall to call my organizer, next to a very sweaty member of the press. Yes, I learned, I was in the right spot, I just had to walk to the other side of the school. No big deal. I rolled up my sleeves.
I finally found the rest of the organizers and interns. Upon finding my organizer, he suggested I take off my tie, it was bound to be a long, hot day. Wait, what? Aren't we setting up inside, or signing people in inside, or just anything inside? Nope. I soon learned that I was to spend the next five hours of my life standing outside, ensuring that all the hot, grumpy people waiting outside to see Tim Kaine were signed in to the event. The exact type of task I enjoy doing so much.
So there I was for the next few scorching hot hours, walking around on the hot, bright pavement, attempting to reduce the glare of the sun on my phone so that I could sign people in ("Make sure you guys put your phone on low power mode, it's going to be a long day and it's vital your phone stays charged. Oh yeah, also make sure you download Google Chrome, that's what you have to use, and it won't work unless you're in incognito mode. Get people excited! Stronger together!!!"). What do I mean by "signing people in?" Signing people in consists of asking everyone in line to give me their name, zipcode, email, and phone number, despite the fact that an email told them to give that information to the campaign in an "RSVP" the night before. If there's one thing people hate more than standing in a long line on a hot day, it's standing in a long line on a hot day and being forced to give information that you already supplied the night before so that twentysomethings can call you every day for the next three months making you feel guilty about not volunteering for Hillary. I have to say, I understand their pain.
My favorite part of the day was when I had to stand by the doors for an hour and a half, telling people that they couldn't bring their water inside the building, despite the fact that fifty yards in front of me another group of interns were handing out water to all of the sweaty attendees (who says political parties are organized?). What do you mean we can't bring water inside, they would say to me, their voices full of disgust, their eyes full of hatred, they just gave us water down there! Yes, yes, I know, but please just throw it away, you can get more once you get past security. (Quick aside: I was horrified at the lack of recycling opportunities present at the event. I thought Democrats were supposed to care about the environment? Do better next time, please.)
It was at this point in the evening (maybe around 5:15 or so) that many people began to project their dissatisfaction onto me. A man and his toddler son walked by me and politely as possible, I asked if they would throw away their water bottle. They did, though they must have been angry about, for the man turned to me and said "thanks for the important info, buddy" with rage in his expression as he took a picture of me with his phone camera. Later, a woman who must have been in her mid-fifties came up to me and told me that I did a horrible job of planning this event. Without missing a detail, she described to me that she had to walk four blocks to get here and then she had to climb underneath a railing to get into line (yeah, that was actually horrible. Be better, Democrats.) and then she had to stand in the hot sun for half an hour and had thirteen, can you believe it, thirteen people ask her to sign in, and then to top it all off, she couldn't peel the sticker off of the sheet it came on. This sounded horrible, so I told her that I was really sorry about everything. "No you're not, you don't care one bit, you're not sorry." She then stormed away, getting back in line to go through security. But the thing is, I actually was sorry!!! I was being sincere!!! It sounds like she was having a truly miserable day, and I could truly relate to her! The poor thing, going through all of that to see a mediocre guy make lame jokes about Donald Trump for an hour.
At 7:30, I finally made it into the building, two and a half hours after the event started. But just in time to Tim Kaine's wife, Anne Holton. Cool! Except, I couldn't hear a word she said, thanks to the protesters right behind me that seemed to be exceptionally upset Holton had resigned as Virginia's Secretary of Education. How dare she refuse to teach our children.
At about 8:00, Holton completed her "main goal tonight, to bring out [my] hubby," (ew) and out came "America's dad," Senator Tim Kaine (he is really digging that nickname). I wish that I could say something cool about his stump speech but I thought it was just alright. The usual jabs at Trump, the same old stuff about how qualified Hillary is. He got emotional about the fact that he was speaking in Richmond, he does seem to love this city. The highlight of the speech for me was when he talked about how nothing makes the former mayor of a city happier than when their children brag about the town; he quoted his son: "Dad, Richmond's a hipster town now." Oh yeah, baby! Nothing like gentrification! Right on!
The speech ended and Taylor Swift's song "Shake It Off" came on, because of course it did, it's the Hillary campaign. But no amount of pop music targeted to millennials could get me to shake off my deep disappointment. To top it all off, the police that were blocking the parking lot I had parked in at the beginning of the day were unhappy about my request to leave. All in all, a day I will look back on bitterly for some time to come.