You can read this series from the beginning here.
"I’m just saying, you should have taken the George Washington Bridge," Monique said.
"I know where I’m going," Emma said. "I’m the only one who knows the area. You and Justin are from New England, Caroline is from the Bay Area. I’m from Jersey. I know the best way to get to Roosevelt Island."
"If you had taken the GWB, we wouldn’t be sitting in this traffic jam in Queens," Monique said.
"If I had taken the GWB, we’d be sitting in traffic on the Turnpike and making bad Chris Christie jokes," Emma said.
"I need a trigger warning if you’re going to keep saying GWB," Caroline said. "I keep hearing George W. Bush when you say that, and it brings up bad memories of my mom fighting with her parents."
"Can we give the trigger warning stuff a rest?" Monique said. "This is not college. This is the real world, where we have to deal with traffic jams. In Queens."
"Look," Emma said. "All of you wanted to come to the rally, right? And I’m the only one who has a car."
"I offered to rent a hybrid," Caroline said. "To cut down on the carbon footprint."
They had been arguing ever since we’d left DC at four that morning. They argued all the way through Maryland and Delaware. They argued when Emma took the Delaware Memorial Bridge to I-295 instead of going through Philadelphia. They argued over stopping at a WaWa in Jersey instead of a Starbucks. I was tired of listening to it. I wanted to be on Roosevelt Island already, in Four Freedoms Park, listening to an impassioned and inspiring speech by the next President of the United States, on whose campaign I was not officially working for, but still. The price of that had been traveling with my girlfriend and two of our co-workers, and listening to them snipe at each other. I was not in the mood for any more stress.
"Maybe we can all be quiet and listen to music or something," I suggested. "I have the new Sleater-Kinney album on my phone, and I can pair it to the Bluetooth on the car stereo."
The truck that was blocking Emma from exiting off the freeway finally inched up just enough to let her go on the off-ramp. "Don’t think so, Justin," she said. "Got to listen to the GPS from here on in."
"You’re not using Apple Maps, are you?" Monique said.
"What if I am?" Emma said.
I sank back in my chair and closed my eyes. We couldn’t get to Roosevelt Island fast enough for me.
We handed in our volunteer credentials at the little kiosk they had set up. We were handed T-shirts with the red-arrow logo and told to put them on. (I should have asked if they were made with fair-trade cotton, but I didn’t think anyone around actually knew that.) After that, we were led to a golf cart driven by a very large African-American man with a shaved head and menacing eyebrows. "You people from Washington, you need to understand something," he said. "This is Mafia territory today. You want to be here, you want to be volunteers, you need to do things the Mafia way, understand?"
None of us said anything. This was mostly because the golf cart was being driven far faster than a golf cart should be driven.
"The enemy is here, in full force. The enemy wants to take us down. The enemy wants to derail us. The enemy wants to find any way it can to break our armor, to slice us up, to twist the blade in our guts. But we won’t let that happen today, because we are Mafia. Say it with me."
"We are Mafia," we all said, or at least tried to say, because the golf cart hit a speed bump and skidded just a bit.
"We have a special area set aside for the press today," he continued. "Your job is very simple. They are the sheep, and you are the shepherds. You keep the sheep in their pen and don’t let them go astray. Don’t let them talk to the civilians, or shout out questions, or do anything they’re not supposed to do. Don’t be afraid to go Mafia on them, understand?"
"Understood," I said.
Having said that, I didn’t actually have to intimidate anyone, and I was glad for it. The section set aside for reporters was large enough that they had room to roam around a little bit. The regular campaign press acted as though the restrictions were old hat, and didn’t even so much as twitch when I asked them to back away from the rope line. There were a couple of people from some conservative website or other who sneered and made some nasty comments about me looking like somebody or other called "Pajama Boy," but I just ignored them. (Pajamas are a remnant of imperialist rule in India, so I never wear them.)
Most of the day involved standing around, listening to the official campaign playlist being played through loudspeakers, and waiting for the former Secretary to take the H-shaped stage at last. (I would have liked a little more world music and a little less Kelly Clarkson, but that’s my own personal preference.) There was some drumming performance at one point that made me worry that we had been hijacked by the Occupy people, but it turned out to be part of the agenda, so that was fine.
The former Secretary finally took the stage around noon, wearing a classic royal blue pantsuit. (This was good because I’d bet Emma ten bucks that she would wear blue and not red.) She looked good, strong and energetic and happy at the turnout.
As for the speech, I guess you could say it was Mafia. It was about fighting the Republicans, which of course is what has to happen, but there was rather a lot about that. She said she would fight for a stronger economy, which I of course support, but she didn’t repeat the line about toppling the one percent, so I suppose that was sort of implicit. She said she would fight to strengthen America’s families, which sounded pretty Mafia to me, but I think she meant universal pre-K or something. And then there was something about fighting for values and fighting for leadership, which I wasn’t sure who she would be fighting against for all that, but it was probably either the Chinese or Mitch McConnell, so that was okay.
And then she was done, and the reporters drifted away, and I found Emma and the other two, and we waited for a while for the guy with the golf cart to come and pick us up but he never did so we had to walk back to Emma’s car. I found a decent vegan spot in Williamsburg for a late lunch, and then we headed back to Washington. This time, Monique and Caroline didn’t complain when Emma worked her way south through Brooklyn to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. They had both fallen asleep in the back seat by the time we got through Staten Island, back to the Turnpike.
"I hope they sleep all the way home," Emma said.
"What did you think about the speech?" I asked.
"She sounded terrible," Emma said. "She said all the right things, I guess, but the delivery was off. Maybe they can use some of the money they made selling T-shirts to get her a voice coach."
"She needs to get the guy from The King’s Speech, maybe," I joked.
"Then she’d sound all British, like Madonna. That wouldn’t work. It would be different, though."
"You don’t sound like you had a good time," I said.
"I wanted to be there, because I thought it would be historic. But it wasn’t. I wanted it to be like, I don’t know, the Gettysburg Address or something, but it was just a lot of campaign boilerplate. If it’s historic, maybe it’s not historic in a good way."
"Once we know who her opponent is, the rhetoric will ramp up. It’s a marathon, not a sprint."
"Justin, this was the re-launch, remember? This is starting the marathon, falling down, and then going back to the start to try again. And I don’t know if she can make it the rest of the way."
"We’re here to help her," I said. "Help her get to the White House, where she can fight the Republicans for four years."
"Fight them and lose, like Obama’s been losing. I don’t want to lose anymore, Justin. I want to win. I want to win big, now, and I’ll do whatever I need to do to make sure that happens, but I don’t see how we do that with Hillary at the top of the ticket. Not unless something dramatic happens."
We made the rest of the drive down in silence, or at least until we hit a big WaWa on 295 in South Jersey and had to stop for gas and bathroom breaks and snacks. Emma and Monique and Caroline spent the entire rest of the drive back arguing about whether the sexism in Game of Thrones was a reflection of historical patterns or a subconscious expression of the inmost thoughts of the showrunners. I looked out my window and watched South Jersey and Delaware and Maryland fade into the distance. I hoped the former Secretary had made the difference today that she had wanted to make.
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