The story begins a couple of weeks ago. I’d had a hard week. Not at work, really … more like overbooking for social events and staying out late every night. So by Thursday I was beat. I daydreamed about sleeping in on Saturday morning, waking when I felt like it, taking Oliver on a leisurely walk and enjoying a cup of coffee on my couch.
Then Natasha emailed me.
A little background: the 2012 Democratic National Convention was coming to town the first week in September. The town was abuzz with events and parties and construction and revelry. But I don’t work or live anywhere near uptown (what we call the downtown, city center area of Charlotte), and I don’t work for a company or with an organization that was involved in any of the happenings. The biggest thing ever to come to Charlotte, on the national stage, and I was going to miss it.
Natasha had volunteered with the Obama campaign, which qualified her to attend President Obama’s nomination acceptance speech on the last night of the convention. It was to be held at Bank of America stadium, an outdoor arena — home to the Carolina Panthers — that can seat nearly 80,000 people. In addition to campaign volunteers, members of the general public could also get credentials for the speech on Thursday night. All we had to do was go stand in line at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Sigh, I told my weary self, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. No matter your politics, how many times do you get to see the sitting POTUS live and in person and in your hometown, no less?
So, I woke at 5 a.m., walked a very confused Miniature Schnauzer around the neighborhood in the dark, and drove across town to meet Natasha. When I got there, we were close to the front of the line, only about 40 people back. We pitched our camp chairs, sipped our coffee and waited. I’ve camped out for a lot of events in my life, so this was old hat. Luckily, the weather was great and our linemates were interesting. We laughed and shared stories as the sun came up, so the time passed quickly. As we sat, people continued to swarm in until the line stretched all the way around the building as far as we could see.
At about 9:30 a.m., things started buzzing. The office prepared to open and some staff members came out to warm the crowd and pass out donuts. Everyone was pumped.
Shortly after 10 am, we were guided through the line and presented with shiny, laminated badges that would be our entry into the stadium.
But the story doesn’t end there.