Bernie Sanders was in Tucson, AZ on Friday night. E and I were already planning on going when E got on email Friday afternoon from the county democratic party asking for volunteers for the event. In 2012, we talked about volunteering for the Obama campaign and in the last few months we’ve talked about volunteering for the Sanders campaign. We are talkers more than doers. But this time, the opportunity to actually volunteer for Bernie Sanders at an event we were already planning on attending was enough to motivate us to volunteer. (All we really wanted to do was show for the speech and then sneak out before everyone else so we didn’t get stuck in traffic.)
Volunteering for this event turned out to be the best thing we could have done.
I am not a fan of crowds. I have been known to have panic attacks and high anxiety in the midst of a lot of people. I am at the point where I can usually go to events with large crowds as long as E is by my side. But we really didn’t consider how very large this Sanders rally was going to be.
The event started at 7pm. We arrived a little before 5pm and there were already several hundred people lined up around the cordoned off section of the park. We bypassed the entire line for the volunteer table, were ushered into the event area and given name tags. For the next hour and a half we got some food and lounged around in the grass awaiting instructions. At 6:50pm, we finally received some vague instructions about crowd control and keeping the handicap area open for handicap people and their families. E and I headed to the handicap area so we could stay out of the thick of the crowd, and ended up right in front of the stage. We spent the next hour or so basically acting as a human road block because the handicap area was not roped off in anyway.
This is a very small portion of the crowd. There were thousands of people at the top of the hill that I couldn’t see from my vantage point and thousands of people to the right and left of this picture.
There were several speakers before Senator Sanders. At that point, along with the other volunteers, we were just trying to keep everyone who was in the front of the crowd seated so that they wouldn’t rush forward and crush the people in the handicapped area when the Senator came on stage.
When Senator Sanders did come on stage, I was surprised by my own reaction. I’ve had the experience a few times in my life – seeing Rent on broadway, attending the birth of my little sister, a musician or two. I think what these all have in common is greatness. In each of those moments, I felt like I was experiencing greatness. This may seem like an odd thing to say about a political rally, but in all of these moments my heart was full.
I don’t know if I would quite call it transformative, but it definitely makes the top ten list of things that have made me happy in my life.
It was also great fun to stand with my feet spread wide and my arms across my chest like a bouncer. Does that say something about me? I was as nice as I could possibly be when telling people they had to move. It was an unexpected hoot.
Political Rally Life Hack #1: Always volunteer. You don’t have to wait in line and they had a special area next to the stage just for volunteers so we wouldn’t get lost in the massive crowd.
Tomorrow, on sleeping more than 12 hours and what that means for my mental health.