I grew up in a small town with three stoplights where people still talk about the time Bozo the Clown was in the big parade (I’m not talking about the clown who will—barring some miracle—share the top of the ballot with a shrieking harpy). Going off to college where I would walk past what amounted to the population of my hometown on a daily basis was a bit shocking, but John Mellencamp is still able to live in virtual anonymity there—or maybe people just give him a wide berth due to his dickish reputation.
What I’m saying is that I don’t have much experience with a need for heavy security. It’s not as if attending a Bernie Sanders’ rally is equal to flying on a plane, right? Wrong.
After two and a half hours of waiting and inching forward in the middle of a 4,000 person line and being heckled by some legit—and previously thought to be mythological—Hillary supporters, we were finally inside the door and greeted by TSA agents telling us to empty our pockets. Ruh roh.
Allow me to back up a few days to when I attended the Ted Cruz rally—my first political rally. Arriving right on time for the speech, I waltzed right in—probably literally because I do tend to favor three quarter time—nodded to the group of police officers, barely showed my Eventbrite ticket to the woman at the table outside the hall, and joined the people already inside. That was it for security.
Back to Bernie’s: when the TSA agent pulled out my keys, which have a knife attached and the pocket knife I always carry fell out, too, she said, “Whoa! You have knives all over the place! What are you going to do with all those?” It didn’t seem like a good time for a discussion on personal protection or opening things, and I wasn’t about to throw them in the trash. So I made the walk of shame against the flow of traffic, through the switchbacks of bike rack barriers, past a girl I know, and out to the sidewalk. My husband and sister made it through security just fine.
With my contraband safely in the car, I considered waiting out the evening at the South Bend Chocolate Café. Curiosity got the better of me though, and I snuck in at the end of the line just making the cutoff right behind a guy I recognized as an employee of the AT&T store I patronize (even Indiana’s fourth largest city is a smallish town). The lady holding the door was overjoyed at the turnout for Bernie and said, “You see, if we are ever attacked, these are the people who will fight.” Wut? That’s the opposite of the enthusiastic figurative cheerleaders walking the line who said: WE ARE PEACEFUL, LOVING PEOPLE, DAMNIT! I’m paraphrasing.
Finally in the building after surrendering my deadly bamboo knitting needles, which are allowed on planes, to a very sympathetic Secret Service officer, I wandered down the main staircase into the aura of a drum circle—of course drums would have been denied entry as well—near the windows overlooking the St. Joseph River. Learning that my party was upstairs, I headed back towards the staircase where I was stopped by another Secret Service Officer who informed me that I was not allowed back upstairs for any reason. He also informed a man next to me who asked about leaving that there was no way to exit the facility at that time. Again, wut? We are not allowed to leave the building?
So, I sheltered in place waiting for Bernie. He was scheduled to speak at 7pm, and I expected to watch him on the huge screen that was supplied. At a few minutes till, the man himself came out and addressed the overflow crowd for about twenty minutes with an abbreviated version of his speech. Maybe I should have listened more closely, but the acoustics were bad and there were some geese on the river that needed watching. Plus, I’d heard it all before. You’ve heard it all before. I give him credit for speaking to us himself. According to some Facebook friends in Bloomington, Ind., he spoke to the crowd that was left outside in the rain in addition to those in the auditorium he had already spoken to. I can appreciate that. He seems to be a genuine person—completely wrong about many things, but genuine, and I respect that.
When we were released, a Secret Service officer retrieved my knitting needles and sent me on my way…to the Chocolate Café which thankfully serves beer. And I sat there waiting for the rest of my party and wondering if Bernie is aware of the free market in merch created in his wake.