Maren writes in many genres and tries to survive and stay sane ALL the time, but especially during world crises such as viral pandemics.
Event of a Lifetime
On Saturday my Field Organizer phoned me. “Maren, I’ve got some spots for an event in Lancaster on Monday with a surrogate. Are you interested?”
“Is it IN Lancaster County?”
“Yes. We don’t know the time yet, but it will be sometime on Monday at a location to be disclosed.”
“So, it could be Petey Buttigieg?”
“It’s a surrogate.”
“Do I have any duties?”
“No, you don’t. It’s a treat for you because you’ve been such an active volunteer.”
“OK, I’M IN!!!!!!”
In my commitment to fight the Nazi-wannabe who has sat illegitimately in the White House of the United States of America for the last 1381 days, I’ve helped the Biden-Harris presidential campaign.
I don’t know exactly when I started participating in phone banks, but I think it was late August. Since then, I have added sending Vote Forward letters to inconsistent voters and going door-to-door both literature dropping and speaking with voters. I am doing my part to get my country back, and back even better. My dedication to replacing the Carrot Caligula with a caring, competent president is solid.
Because I live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I logically joined the “Southern Lancaster Back to Blue” group. Matt Malloy, our charismatic, flexible, friendly leader, is from Brooklyn. Matt is a champion encourager. I’m guessing he’s in his mid-twenties, but he has the wisdom of someone with many extra decades on the odometer.
Campaigning isn’t the same as it was in the last century. Or in Obama’s 2008. Or even in 2018 – a mere two years ago. Keeping the segment of old fogie volunteers, such as myself, competent on the new digital technology is part of Matt’s job and he does it with gentleness and patience. I really appreciate his walking me through the changes that occur on a weekly basis in our data recording app. And, I appreciate his calm acceptance of the week in which I declared, “I’ve HAD IT with this new software. I’m walking away. I’ll try again next week.” Matt’s a keeper.
Before the Pandemic Shutdown
Although it was merely 18 months ago that the Democratic National Committee started holding debates to decide who the party’s presidential candidate would be, it feels more like decades. Back when humans routinely gathered in each other’s presence without weighing the life-or-death health consequences, I favored Pete Buttigieg for our next president. Things changed. As the pandemic caused further ugliness in our country’s recent culture of divisive bullydom, I grew convinced that Joe Biden is the best person to bring sanity and healing to America. When he chose Kamala Harris as his running mate, my confidence increased exponentially. My flexible work schedule allows me to give volunteer time theretofore unimagined, so my goal was and is to have no regrets, no sins of omission, no “shoulda, coulda, wouldas.”
Going to the Prom
November 2, 2020 is the day before our national election. The Presidential candidates are taking nothing for granted. They and their spouses, their running mates and their spouses, plus scores of surrogate speakers scheduled barnstorm visits across the nation. Due to our bizarre system of counting electoral votes, the results in some states are weightier than other states’. Pennsylvania is burdened with being such a critical state. So, no one is surprised by the flurry of visits popping up on the day before the election.
Apparently, Matthew received notice of some sort of event for a very small number of attenders. As he planned to be canvassing door-to-door all day on November 2nd, he had the ability to give the opportunity to others. The way I excitedly viewed this, Matt gave me a backstage pass to a rock concert!
It was very vague, though. He knew little. But, he knew it was going to be a rather significant surrogate for Joe Biden, next president of the United States.
I truly prepared with all the care that a high schooler devotes to prom prep. When would I wash my hair? What should I wear? What kind of sign could I make? I know there will be metal detectors and tight security, so what how much should I reduce the contents of my purse? How early should I get there (still not knowing the when or the where)? I was 100% certain that this event would be outdoors, so what will the weather be like?
By Sunday afternoon, I got the information that the event would be close to 10:30 am. Still no other details. However, I had decided that I’d wear my RGB dissent collar earrings and my high-top Converse sneakers. I just cheer on Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris for campaigning in comfortable sneakers and saying to the world, in essence, “my body, my choice!” You go, gurl!
By Sunday night I was wiggly with impatience and emailed Matthew. “Hi Matthew, I thought you might want to give me directions on where to go and by when to be there. I know I would like that . . .lol. May I bring a small sign with no wooden pole? I am excited.” In the manner of millennials, he texted me instead of replying to the email. (I’m learning.) Basically, he knew NOTHING! He said someone would contact me with details. Wow.
Well, that was enough to light a fire under me. Time to research. It didn’t take long to find that it is Doug Emhoff, husband of Kamala Harris, who would be in Lancaster, PA. I still didn’t know where or precisely when, but I felt pleased. I know had inspiration for my sign (if we were allowed to have a sign.) I would honor Kamala and her hubby could feel pleased.
Iconic High Top Chuckie Taylor Converse Sneakers
The Perfect Sign
The Little Drummer Boy is a Christmas song about a humble shepherd boy who agonizes about what kind of gift to bring the newborn King of Kings. I approached that level of fussing over my sign. There are so many issues that the new Democratic team says it will fix. What should I tell Mr. Doug are the most important to me on my sign?
I am a creative. So, when I finally sketched out a few ideas and considered and reconsidered my choices, I was danged proud of my result. Including the outline of a Converse high-top in homage to Kamala was a no-brainer. “We go!”
My Own Sign
Finally, More Details
Late Sunday night an email arrived, but I did not see it until the crack of dawn on Monday.
“Friends, we are thrilled to confirm your attendance at Biden for President’s canvass kickoff with Doug Emhoff. Please find event details below. We look forward to seeing you there . . .
When: Monday, November 2, 2020, Doors Open: 10:30 AM, Please note, we will not be able to admit guests who arrive after 11:15 PM.
Where: Steinman Park . . .
Security: You will be required to go through an airport-style security before entering the park, and all bags will be searched.
COVID Precautions: Keeping everyone safe and healthy is the campaign’s top priority. Upon arrival, a team member will take your temperature and ask you to complete a health screening. All guests will be required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth throughout the event.”
I excitedly told my partner: “Steinman Park!”
Steinman Park Is Perfect
It is so close to me: less than two miles as the crow flies. I knew exactly where I could conveniently park about a half mile away and walk the rest. I’ve passed it hundreds of times, so I’d have no worries about identifying the venue.
Also, I know it is a private totally enclosed brick courtyard between a restaurant and an office building. It has a high brick wall in the back and a tall lockable iron gate at the sidewalk entrance. It’s perfect for security, but very small for a crowd which would be safely socially distanced. This made me feel even more curious.
Steinman Park Flag
Weather and Waiting
In other states, you may laugh, but for southern Pennsylvania November 2nd brought very high winds and a bitter wind chill. Meaning this was our first taste of those low temperatures this year. Sure, by January we’ll regard such a day as gusty, yet balmy, but for Monday we were feeling very frozen.
Although the invitation hinted at the action not starting until after 11:15 am, I wanted to be early. I arrived around 10:20 and there were perhaps ten people waiting on the shaded sidewalk, masked and stamping their feet to fight the cold. I recognized two candidates for state level elections and an acquaintance. A gentleman near me loved my hat and sign and had his companion take a pic of us together. (I later learned he was a very important political up-and-comer from Philadelphia!)
After 40 minutes of milling about on the sidewalk and being joined by perhaps 35 more attenders, the COVID precautionary screening and security screening began. Visual inspection of packages and our waistbands and scanning with handheld metal detectors were completed by Secret Service agents. Then, each of us was free to freeze in the courtyard.
We Are Strongest When Every Adult Votes
Oh my God, oh my God! So, they were one of the highlights for me. I mean, when had I ever been at anything with Secret Service agents? Never!
I asked a campaign staffer where the stage area was and after she pointed it out, I claimed my own duct-taped spot in the first row. The speakers’ stage was actually constructed with plywood and a podium arranged over a large empty fountain 12 feet in diameter. A protective aisle four feet wide extended in front of the stage and was delineated by those heavy-duty strapped barriers directing crowds at airports and movie theaters. If you thought of this aisle as a “moat,” then the snapping alligator was an agent standing in the middle of it constantly scanning the crowd.
She was thin, blonde, in her twenties, and had a white oxford shirt and a very sharp long gray tunic jacket that went mid-thigh length. She had no socks on and it was so cold! On her jacket lapel was a brass pin with a very modern red squiggly insignia. It was neither military-law-enforcement looking nor Jingoistic-American-eagle-flaggy. I chatted with her. I was so thrilled.
The first time, I asked if she was an event staffer, and she replied, “No, Secret Service.” She gets assigned to all the candidates and surrogates on both sides of the aisle, and goes all over the country. “It’s fun,” she said. Later, I offered her my winter neck scarf. She declined but appreciated the thought. It was really cold and she and I were in the shade. I couldn’t see a weapon on her until she went over behind an outside bar to adjust the gun in her waistband. Sheesh.
I also started noticing the other people meandering around who had the same gray jacket with brass and red lapel pin.
Finally, Speakers Begin
After enduring a sound engineer blasting us with wedding reception songs of the 1980s for 45 minutes, the show began. We heard from the incredibly dedicated and dynamic Janet Diaz, a Lancaster city council member who is running for state Senate. She would be Pennsylvania’s very first Latina senator. She and others gave the sort of speech in which there are moments that call for cheering. However, when every single person is spaced six feet away, the effect is nothing like a roar.
She was followed by other speakers, however each came onstage only after a staffer would alcohol wipe the entire surface if the podium. Each speaker carried his or her own handheld microphone. No germ sharing there.
Then, the person who was my other highlight of the event came out.
It was Malcolm Kenyetta, rising star in the PA House of Representatives! He is a third-generation activist from North Philadelphia, a very rough section of that city. Furthermore, during the virtual Democratic National Committee presidential nominating convention this summer, Kenyetta was the spokesperson for Pennsylvania! He is a black-skinned gay man who calls out baloney in our state government with the same fearlessness we see from Katie Porter and AOC!
And, he was the gentleman who photographed my sign. Wow.
The Main Speaker
After we heard from various local speakers and, of course, the cheerleader Malcolm Kenyatta, the time came close for Mr. Doug Emhoff to cap off the morning. We could tell this by the entry into the sides of the stage by two very stern, age forty-something and God-help-you-if you-looked-at-them-the-wrong-way Secret Service agents. They perfectly fit movie depictions of agents. Their frowns could wither anybody. Their postures intimidated. Even wearing black COVID face masks, they were seriously scary.
As they were getting in place a strong wind gust hit the crowd. A local politician stepped up to be the honored one who introduced Kamala’s husband. Another gust hit us and suddenly from my mittened hands, my special uniquely crafted sign flew away. It lifted twenty feet in front of me and landed temporarily in a tree behind the stage. After it did this Charlie Brown kite maneuver, it quietly and quickly slid to the earth. Behind the scarier of the two agents. In the very secured stage area. Mr. Doug would never see it.
It evoked the feeling that I always get from the children’s poem about the beach, The Picnic. “. . . Our sandwiches were different kinds. I dropped my jelly one.” Although I went to a lot of effort to produce a gift message to Doug Emhoff, he would not see it. Just like the child who looked forward to eating the jelly sandwich, only to lose it.
I philosophized: maybe this was meant to be. And I then I directed my attention to the stage. The extra, super cleaning of the podium being executed looked almost like a surgical scrub.
Doug Emhoff came out briskly and gave us our pep talk. He knew it was a select audience of supporters and Democratic politicians, so he didn’t need to convince any undecided voters. His message was to work hard for the next 40 hours and to “run through the tape.” He looked cold and, as happened all morning, any attempts by the crowd to have some sort of cheer or chant just didn’t make much excitement due to our distancing. I think all of us were glad when he finished his appropriately brief remarks.
As he and the select politicians did some phone photos together, the crowd began to disperse. Campaign staffers asked each of us whether we’d sign up for canvassing that day, but I was already committed for a 3:00 to 5:00 pm shift.
I am incredibly grateful for my morning spent with the Biden team. I’m also incredibly grateful for the bright moments I’ve had with 2020 voters who shared their hopes and their voting plans, who sought guidance on completing mail-in ballots, the 97-year-old first time voter, and for the gang of kids in Lancaster’s roughest ward who were champing at the bit to become old enough to vote. May the Force be with us.
(Thanks, Matthew Malloy.)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Maren Elizabeth Morgan
Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on November 07, 2020:
Linda C. and Diane T., you give me emotional support so you are just as integral. This seems to be the time in my life when I am able to do this. I thought I contributed to the world all my life, but it feels as though this is, as Winston Churchill said, "my finest hour"? Thanks for your support.
Diane A Toigo on November 07, 2020:
What a fantastic story, proud to call you friend!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 04, 2020:
Thank you for all your hard work and for sharing your experience, Maren. I'm keeping track of the election results with interest and concern.
Maren Elizabeth Morgan (author) from Pennsylvania on November 04, 2020:
Doug M, thanks. Connie H, I have talked with people who told me that they would vote for the incumbent, however treated me with profound respect as I did to them. Then there were others who were bullies. This is one of the reasons why I want Joe Biden to win - he and his team do not ignore subpoenas and laws, do not encourage violence and bullying. I am very depressed at how many people voting Republican seem to feel harming fellow citizens is just fine. It is a very selfish, short-sighted way to live.
Connie H. on November 04, 2020:
Maren, thanks for all the work you did for the Democrats! I am very disappointed in Florida, but have hopes for Pennsylvania. This sounds like an event you'll always cherish.
We are in a nightmare scenario now. I am hoping that sanity prevails. I am really in a state of shock that Trump is within striking distance of four more years.
Doug Marschka on November 04, 2020:
Incredible experience for you Maren..& thanks for all your hard work..let's go BLUE..!!