Inside McCormick Place, fiesta or funeral?

11/07/2012 10:00 PM


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Standing amidst thousands of Obama supporters — people of all sorts of colors, religious persuasions, views on who they love, outlook, age and every other methodology of defining humanity — I realized, this is it. The future. And I’m so glad I’m here to see it.

But the question is, how did I get an invitation-only ticket to President Obama’s election-night happening at McCormick Convention Center? I’m not connected. Too irascible to be politically correct.

It was the week before the election when my husband put the line in my mind’s ocean.

“You know, they need volunteers at the Obama re-election office at 218 S. Wabash,” he said.

“I don’t do calls,” given I don’t WANT calls. Gary was doing those, but then he added that they needed data input too. Oh, I do that. Just me and my earbuds and my music (or WCPT-820 FM). After a 15-minute training by Kate Samuels, I was off.

So that is how we got our magic tickets, question was, would it be a fiesta or a funeral? So at 8 p.m. we pulled on the gear, hung the plastic-sheathed lanyard around our necks that held the magic ticket and trudged four blocks down the road.

It was like going to a concert, with bubbling happy people in snaking lines around the massive site. No one was grumpy, everyone smiling hopefully. Handily, there was a $3 coat check area and $4 package check, with an attendant calling “Briefcase?” Per the rules, no big stuff allowed inside. Neither food, nor drink, nor a bundle of other things like large umbrellas and baby strollers.

Next, security. Past security we ran into PDNA (Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance) President Tina Feldstein and a neighbor. Hugs, photos and we were off again. Down a long area with banners saying “Forward.” Around the corner were water jugs with the triangle shaped water cups, got to keep us hydrated. And we enter the room.

Dark and with a band playing not-too-noisily, we meandered forward, hovering near the Jumbotron television screen, the center of any 21st century gathering. I thought back to those in the Loop outside doing the same. Strangers spoke, asking, have you heard anything about “fill-in-the-blank?” Over time, the Pledge of Allegiance was said, a rather rowdy prayer (why do we have prayers at government events?) and a delightfully heartfelt Star Spangled Banner was sung.

Then we waited. Eruptions of joy as states go for Obama. Sadly, boos when they don’t. Don’t get mad, I thought. VOTE. And work to get others to do the same. That brought up another thought, when will we have FEDERAL voting run by competence instead of partisan state-run debacles?

Then, the projection came in: Obama was projected to WIN. Hugs, tears, hugs with strangers and more screaming joy.

When a path opened before us, I grabbed Gary’s hand and said GO. We slid in through the magic gate into the inside, as Obama supporters with a security guard admonished us with a smile: “Slowly!”

It was like a rope line, only we are the center of attention with a jam of press — some with film cameras and microphones, some with notebooks, but all trying to grab an attendees’ attention for a quote or to answer a question. Having family actively working in NYC journalism (and a past in small town America journalism myself), we slowed down. The rest of the hundreds of oozed-in attendees raced ahead. So that was how we found ourselves talking to journalists in English (and in Spanish, given Gary’s fluency) from Norway, CNN Chile, German, Finland, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Portugal, Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, France and more.

It was the moment I looked at the mic jammed out to see (upside down), “BBC World News” that I went to the young woman. “BBC WORLD? I JUST was listening to you,” as I was on the CTA bus no. 4 coming home at 5 p.m. Amazing what a smartphone with the TuneIn Radio app (free), can do. With a daughter and two grandsons in the UK — and a son-in-law who loves us — we spend a LOT of time there, and BBC World just has super duper fabulous international news.

Exhaustion hit before midnight, so we made our way down the stairs toward the door only to run into more neighbors, Marie and Bob Christian, with whom we enjoyed time walking home.

What a night. It made up for the Kerry loss in 2004 when another GOP neighbor looked me in the face only to say in that childhood singsong, “Nah, nah, nah-nah, nah.”

Candace Drimmer
South Loop

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