barack, unc, and another adventure

A few days ago I wrote about some opportunities to enjoy politics as part of the “locality” of various cities during this trip. However, I had yet to see some real “political action” on any college campus – no debates or rallies or even too much real political activity actually taking place at a school. And my hopes to find some such activity were waning as the end of the semester drew near.

But I also knew I was entering one of the next Presidential battle zones – North Carolina. So it was now-or-never.

Then I missed Chelsea.

That’s right, Chelsea Clinton was at Duke University last week. And I didn’t find out about it ’cause I wasn’t on campus that day. Apparently people just put up some fliers that day, she showed up rather under-the-radar, and I missed her. That woulda been fun.

Meanwhile, I knew there was no real chance to see John McCain out here, since he’s got things locked up in the GOP. Things were looking grim regarding seeing anything politicollegiate.

Then I got the phone call.

One of my buddies here, a Duke student, had gone to vote early – something they’re really pushing here in North Carolina. But not only did Carolyn do her civic duty that day, she did her friend-ic duty, as well! Because when they were passing out Barack Obama political rally tickets at the voting extravaganza, she picked one up for me.

An Obama rally at University of North Carolina. The guy who seems to have best captured collegiate imaginations showing up at one of the best-known schools in the country. Regardless of my political leanings any which way, this was a wonderful opportunity for a campus explorer. And no matter what happens in the election, it’s cool to say I got to go.

The rally was on Monday. I wore my Notre Dame shirt that day, figuring that pretty much assured I would be asked to come up on stage or eat a private dinner with Obama. (Remember, Notre Dame is a Catholic school in Indiana. Obama could use some help in the Faith Population these days, AND the Indiana primary is the same day as North Carolina’s. So I figured Barack and Benson would be shooting hoops before night’s end, and then we could talk about his policies.)

Meanwhile, completing my wardrobe were my cool brown Gap pants with the big pockets. Perfect for carrying a camera and pens and paper and a book or two – since the wait would be long.

Doors would open at 7pm. I started walking to UNC’s beloved Dean Smith Center around 5:30pm, knowing there would be a line. My buddy with the ticket was showing up sometime – she and I weren’t really sure when. But I figured I was “better safe than sorry.”

By approximately 5:34pm, I was drenched, head-to-toe. Apparently I was not safe, and I WAS sorry.

Brown pants drenched. Green Notre Dame shirt clinging quite nicely. North Carolina has been experiencing a good amount of rainfall to make up for a recent drought, but this downpour came fast and hard at a time I really couldn’t “hide” from it on my way to the arena.

Here I was, caught in the rain, on my way (probably) to eat dinner with Obama and his family and his campaign staff. I figured being completely wet lessened my chances.

The downpour also didn’t help my camera (which came through surprisingly well), my notepaper (which came through less-well), my books (books don’t respond well to water), or my phone (which seems to have some lasting problems).

I FINALLY made my way to a building with a bathroom. I honestly wrung out my shirt, pulled EVERYTHING out of my pockets, used paper towels as best I could, and got things under control. Kinda. Still drenched (what could I do?), but “presentable,” if you can be presentable when sopping wet. This bathroom was not equipped with blow-dryers, which woulda come in handy.

The next portion of the story involves the hour wait under a bridge that didn’t provide complete shelter from the rain while I watched the line grow very, very long as I waited for my ticket to arrive. It wasn’t my buddy’s fault I had to wait. It was just a long, damp, cold hour. But since that’s the really boring part (both then and now), I’ll jump ahead.

When Carolyn and her friend arrived, the line was already moving into the building. So we walked against the flow ’til we found the end of the line (far, far away), then worked our way with the line down the hill to the arena.

No umbrellas allowed inside. As you may have gathered, I wasn’t affected by this rule.

No food allowed inside. I had not had dinner, but since I hadn’t thought to bring anything with me, this rule didn’t exactly concern me, either. I did, however, happily stuff about 10 large chocolate-covered pecans in my mouth that Carolyn had brought, before she threw the rest away so we could enter.

Fortunately, my pecan-stuffed mouth didn’t set off the metal detectors, and we were in!

Finding seats was far from easy, since hundreds had entered ahead of us. The first set we located was three seats not next to each other, with me sitting with my legs out straight on the step, lounge-style. Not your normal way to watch a political rally, but whatevs. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but I was still damp.

To be continued.

Written from the Manor House, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

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