Early this morning, my friend Kim and I set out from my home across Puget Sound from Seattle and waited in line for a commute ferry. We were on our way to the University of Washington hospital to see if I could catch up with my nephrologist, and to the event going on nearby: a big rally for Patty Murray's campaign featuring President Barack Obama! We hadn't had an opportunity to see him before and were going early to make sure we got a good place in line. Before we left the house at 5 am, we learned that there were already people in line, people who had been there since last night.
We had a truly magical day. We parked in the medical center garage, despite the sign saying "no event parking", because I had legitimate business at the hospital; I'm going for surgery tomorrow morning and need to see my nephrologist, since I can't make my appointment with him tomorrow due to the surgery. We headed right over to the event, planning to go to the hospital afterward. (My nephrologist turned out not to be there today so I will have to make other arrangements to see him; it's required by Medicare that I have an appointment with him at least once a month.) Here's what happened to us...
We walked the block and a half (about all I can manage) over to the event and were walking down to where there was apparently a line. I saw a lot of people clustered around someone on a post, people who looked like they were in line, so I stopped to inquire what was going on. I found out that was the volunteer training, but since I no longer have the energy and stamina to fully contribute to something like that, I decided to pass on that opportunity, as did Kim. For stopping and talking to one of the staff people about it, though, Kim and I were each handed a large red ticket to the event.
We knew that they were already planning for overflow and that we had to be there early to even hope to get in, so we asked where we should go with the red tickets and were directed to a particular line. An inquiry or two showed us where the end of the line was, which wasn't too long yet (it was just past 7:30 am by this point), so we got in line. Everyone in that line had the red tickets.
We found out an hour or so later that there had been something like 500 of these red tickets printed, and that they were VIP tickets, gaining us admission to the best seats and standing area in the house. We really lucked out when we stopped and talked to that staff member.
We waited in line, hung out, got to know the other people around us in line, and generally had a good (although cold) time standing out on the sidewalk waiting to get in. I had some concern about my purse being too large, but there was absolutely nothing in it to cause any concern and I had lifesaving medication in it for myself. It turned out not to be a concern at all, since I submitted my purse to a very thorough search, more intensive than the TSA performs at an airport. The security staff even opened my wallet to see what was inside. They checked everything.
I had dressed in layers, with a long-sleeved t-shirt as my base layer, then a hoodie, then a double-layered thermal hoodie that I particularly like for sheer warmth. I had a folded-up mesh bag inside my purse to put extra layers in if I got too warm once we were inside, which I did. I wound up wearing only the single-layer hoodie over the rest of my clothes, as much for modesty as anything else. Given the press of the crowd when President Obama came down to shake our hands, it was a good idea, since my t-shirt would otherwise have been pulled a bit low by the people behind me pressing me forward.
Once inside, I had another bit of luck: I ran into someone I know from the Washington State Democrats, Jaxon Ravens, and told him that I was planning to run for 26th LD Democrats State Committeewoman this year during our biannual reorganization in December. He told me there was planning already in place for a meeting close to our neck of the woods, on the Peninsula, which will be excellent. I don't think I have a lot of competition for State Committeewoman, but we will see. I think I could do a good job, and I can travel with my dialysis machine.
Kim wanted a seat; I wanted to go down and stand on the floor, as our red tickets got us up to the front section. There was a large section behind the front, separated by a large fence, but I found a spot near the podium and was planning to see if I could get some decent pictures. Instead, Kim signaled me to come over to the other side; Jaxon had found us a spot right up at the front of the rail where President Obama would come and shake hands. I stood there, with Kim, and found several of the women we'd gotten to know in the line were staked out in that spot as well. Since we all got along fine, all watched out together for each other's spot if someone had to leave for a restroom break, and watched out especially to make sure all the kids were treated well and were safe, it worked out beautifully and we all cooperated with each other to make sure everyone would have a chance to shake the President's hand if he came over. I gave up my good spot near the podium for a chance to shake Mr. Obama's hand, which turned out to be a great choice.
The event started with a truly amazing choir, Vocal Expressions. What harmonies they achieve! They performed God Bless America, several songs the names of which I do not know, and Amazing Grace. I knew that song had several verses but only knew the first. We were encouraged to sing along with that one, and many sang along with God Bless America as well. I cannot resist singing and did so, on key. I have had some vocal training and my voice tends to carry, but it blended in with everything else.
Several Democratic candidates and Congress members spoke: first Suzan DelBene, who has a really good chance to beat the incompetent Dave Reichert this time around, then the most excellent Jay Inslee from the district next door to mine, then my own Congressman Norm Dicks. We learned later that Jim McDermott was also in the house but wasn't a speaker. Jay Inslee said, to wild applause, that he was going to propose a "3 strikes and you're out" law in Congress to apply to losing candidates; lose three times and that's it for you. This is Dino Rossi's third election in a row, and we intend for him to lose this one, too.
We next had a visit from our excellent Democratic governor (and early supporter of Barack Obama in 2008) Chris Gregoire, who said some scathing things about Dino Rossi's plans to make things worse for the middle class and poor and benefit only the wealthiest Americans, and to support corporations that outsource jobs and give them tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.
And then out came President Barack Obama and Senator Patty Murray together. They shook a few hands (especially of little kids) near the corner of the fence where I was standing, then ascended the stairs to the stage and went to the podium. Senator Murray spoke first, with President Obama standing by, approvingly, and applauding when called for (as did we all). It was loud in there and it's hard sometimes when you're in the middle of a noisy crowd to hear what is being said, yet when I listened hard, everything was pretty clear.
And then, to noisy pandemonium, President Obama took the podium and gave a rousing stump speech. Some elements that we expected were included, of course, especially the part about Republicans not being able to have the keys back because they don't know how to drive. It was like being in the middle of a Beatles concert; sometimes it was that hard to hear the end of a sentence because everyone was yelling so loudly, cheering. President Obama fired us up! At one point, he got everyone chanting "Yes we can, yes we can" to every point he was expressing about how the Republicans say you can't have this, or you can't have that, or we can't do that. Every time he would point out what the Republican nay-sayers claim, we would holler "Yes we can" at the top of our lungs.
Afterward, President Obama came down the stairs with Senator Murray and they started shaking hands, starting in the corner where the little kids were kept safe and going around the front. As I was at the front, with someone slightly in front of me but able to reach through and touch our President, I said, when he came to me, "Mr. President, I'm having surgery tomorrow. Wish me luck." His response: "Let me give you a kiss!"
I leaned forward, and the President of the United States leaned forward, and he kissed me on the cheek. I don't have a picture of that moment; maybe some news crew, somewhere in Seattle, does, and if you find it, please let me know. I would be thankful, too, if you find video. For me, even if I never see a picture or video of that moment, it is sealed into my lifetime memory. I got kissed by President Obama, someone who cared enough about a dialysis patient facing surgery the next day to take time to give me a kiss.
I got kissed by President Obama. That's something to treasure all my life.
Update: Thanks to mimi, there's video! Please go see her diary and rec it; the video is linked there. That is definitely me and you can even hear me telling President Obama that I'm having surgery. (The surgery's now scheduled for 1 pm since several people are in there getting transplants and the physician removing the catheter is the transplant surgeon.)