Tuesday, September 9, 2008

McCain/Palin Second Installment

Security needs must explain much of the work involved in attending a presidential-level political rally. At the McCain/Palin rally in Albuquerque on Saturday, September 6, there was one door for the people attending the rally. If there was a second door, I didn’t see it. But my view was restricted by the need to keep my place in line.
It’s basic queuing theory, something I learned just enough about in business school to get a graduate school “C” and survive. If there is one door—one “server” in the jargon—and many, many people, it will take a really long time to get through the door. Reports were that 6,000 attended.
When we arrived, about 4:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. program, the line snaked around the southwest corner of the convention center and then east along Tijeras. We joined the line under the railroad tracks, happy for shade. Over time the line extended from under the tracks to the top of the hill where Tijeras joins M.L. King and then turned 180ยบ back to end under the tracks again.
An hour and 15 minutes later, standing all the while but mostly in shade, we were in the convention center. Then it was another 20 minutes to so to get through the security gates and stop for purse inspection.Inside, bleachers extended from the north wall. We couldn’t get to the bleachers, which didn’t matter, because they were full. The people in the bleachers may have thought they got a good deal by being able to sit. They also got to view the back of the speakers’ heads because the speakers faced the cameras.
We went to the remaining open area, stood for a while and then sat on the floor next to the draped railing marking the edge of the audience area. I noticed a drinking fountain on the wall outside the area and then, as I walked to the fountain, a concession stand appeared. I don’t know why a $2.00 bottle of water seemed better than the fountain water, but it did. The fellow manning the concession booth pitched candy bars as I ordered the water. I said, No, thanks, complimented him on the sales effort, and returned to the audience area. My companion and I drank the water. She kept the bottle and filled it from the fountain as we departed more than an hour later. The fountain water was fine.“Raucous” was the description of weekend McCain/Palin rallies from Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal. Meckler nailed it.
Loud. Very loud. Signs and flags waving everywhere.
By the measure of the personal ear-based applause meter, the crowd liked McCain. The crowd loved Palin.
Rep. Steve Pearce, candidate for the Senate, led the speakers with a long invocation, a modest role that seemed odd and has drawn blogger comment. Other speakers not mentioned in the 9/7/08 post included Rep Heather Wilson, with a rousing setting of the stage for McCain and Palin. The Boy Scouts presented the colors. Girl Scouts shun any connection with partisan events.
Cheerleaders offered the low point of the preliminaries. I didn’t catch what group the cheerers represented, if any. They performed two custom cheers, one on behalf of McCain and one for Palin. It wasn’t that they were bad. as cheerleaders Actually, they were probably OK and certainly well intended. However, “out of place” got a new, higher order definition.
Points for theater go to the driving of a “Straight Talk Express” bus, an RV, actually, into the hall. It had been hidden behind a large American flag. There was a puff of smoke. The flag was raised and the RV eased into the hall.
As McCain spoke, a few people began to drift from the hall. Most were older. I understood. The messages from the feet were getting louder. Avoiding the crowd had appeal. We stayed until the end, though, and our departure proved no problem.
We happened to park on First Street, which turned out to be the exit route for the McCain/Palin motorcade. To get to First, we cut between the Tower Building and Marquette. As we approached First, we noticed motorcycles, maybe 40 of them, two abreast. Our friend, photographer Mark Bralley, who was joining us for the ride home, took a moment to visit with one of the officers, an acquaintance from Mark’s years as a police officer. While we walked north, the motorcycle column began to move with officers peeling away to block intersections. Squad cars followed the motorcycles, then a McCain “Straight Talk Express” RV. More squad cars were next, leading another RV, a duplicate we thought, but weren’t sure because it was dark, with more cars in the rear. Sarah Palin was in the second RV, we’re told. Somewhere in the middle were a half-dozen white vans with labels saying, “press,” so we figured the vans carried the traveling media.
The motorcade moved quickly. It passed and we went home where mission one was to remove the shoes. My feet were still throbbing the next morning.

Photos: by Mark Bralley.

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