I will never do that again. I will never stand in the freezing cold for two and a half hours for Sarah Palin.
I got word that Palin's flight was coming in and that the "public" was invited to attend her welcome home. I arrived a little before 8:30, when the flight was scheduled. Shortly after arrival, the crowd of about 150 were told that the flight had been delayed until 9:00. Then the gates were slid open and the crowd was funneled out on to the tarmac into an area that was sectioned off with parked vans on one side, and ropes on the other side. The crowd seemed particularly excited. There were lots of families with small children carrying signs like "We Love Our Gov", "Sarah Rocks" and "We're Proud of You". Not nearly as creative as the signs at the Alaskans for Truth Rally, but they got their message across.
So we stood, and we waited. We watched our breath make clouds illuminated by the media lights. Every time a plane was seen taxiing, the crowd erupted. I got stuck next to a screamer again. This time it was a woman, and every time she let out a "WOOOOOOOOOO!" it made my ear drum rattle.
All of a sudden someone shrieked, "It's the Lieutenant Governor!!" "Where?" someone yelled. "Behind you!" I turned around and there I was....face to face with Sean Parnell! Three or four women screamed like Lieutenant Governor groupies. "You are doing such a wonderful job!" one woman gushed. "And you're so much better looking in person! That's why I didn't recognize you! Can I get my picture taken with you?" (vague nausea set in, and I drifted to another part of the crowd).
There was no doubt when the actual plane arrived. It had a giant blue "McCain Palin" on the side. It came to a stop a little distance away. They rolled the stairs up to the side of the plane, the door opened and people started coming down. The crowd went wild. It was the press. More people. More screaming. It was staff. Chants of SAH-RAH, SAH-RAH!
Finally Sarah and Todd stepped off the plane, and down the stairs, Sarah teetering on the most rediculous shoes I've ever seen in my life. Let me just say....Sarah Palin knows Alaska. She knows what it's like when it's 10 degrees in November at the airport, but there she was tromping through the snow cover in giant, towering, 5-inch heels. She reminded me of a little girl playing dress up, the way she walked.
She was all smiles, waving at the crowd, and working the audience. She stopped to see the "public" before making comments to the press. We heard about how she traveled all over "this great country" with Senator McCain, and everywhere there were people just wavin' Alaskan flags, and Senator McCain understands about Alaska and Alaskan trade, and Alaskan energy, and Alaskan seafood.... Then she said that it was time that we all supported our new President...President Obama. Wow. Didn't see that one coming. The lady next to me said, "Isn't she sweet? She's so nice telling us to support him even when she doesn't mean it. Awwww. It's never about her, is it...she wants what's best for the country." Luckily my feet were frozen in place or I would have fallen over. Then she said how now we needed to teach our new president about Alaska, and Alaskan trade, and Alaskan energy and Alaskan seafood... "Because," she said, "at the core of our campaign, my message to them was 'We're Alaskan!'" Hmmm. I must have missed that core message somewhere between Bill Ayers and Bill Ayers.
Then she teetered off to go talk to the press who were set up about 30 feet away.
While she was gone, the crowd was a-buzz. "She's so nice!" "Isn't it amazing how she can speak off the cuff like that?! And she's so good at it!" And my favorite exchange from off to my right somewhere:
Woman 1: I wonder what she's telling the media?
Woman 2: She's probably telling them to lay off her clothes!
Woman 1: Yeah. And she looked really good in those clothes.
Woman 2: She looks good in anything, doesn't she?
Woman 1 : Yes. She. Does.
Then more chatter about singing. "We should sing! What should we sing?" "How about God Bless America?" "No! Amazing Grace!" "That's not peppy....How about: (singing) We love you Saaa-rah, oh yes we doo-ooo! We love you Saa-raah, and we'll be truu-uue! When you're not wi-ith us, we're BLUE! Oh Saa-raah wee-ee love yooooou!" At this point I was ready to stick a shiv in my temple. We were packed in like sardines, and I dared not move or I would lose my reasonably good picture-taking spot so I stayed put.
I started to bounce up and down because my feet were seriously cold at this point. Finally she finished up with the media, and came back over to the line. She started shaking hands, and hugging people she knew, and exchanging niceties, working her way down the line, shaking hands, more hugging, and before I knew it, I was right there 2 feet away, and it was obvious I was the next in line to have my hand shaken. I had to actually recoil to avoid it, and I managed to grab a little girl who was behind me and shove her ahead so it looked like I was being thoughtful, and not because the thought of shaking Sarah Palin's hand was short-circuiting my brain. The little girl's mother thanked me and Palin moved on.
I was definitely ready to take off. My toes were starting to really tingle, and it was getting late. I went to head to the gate, and was stopped by Secret Service. "I'm sorry, you're going to have to get back behind the cone." I explained how I was really cold and was just heading to my car. "I'm sorry, I'm going to have to ask you to stand behind the cone until the Governor leaves." There were several other frozen people, some with little kids, who had already tried this apparently. No dice. I was stuck out in the cold behind a fence with a bunch of hard-core Sarah Palin groupies with no escape, and a jammed cell phone. This was not good.
I checked Palin's progress. She hadn't gotten far. She was autographing every piece of paraphernalia, every sign, every t'shirt, every flag that was thrust at her. More pictures, more hugs. I was going to be here for a while. I walked around in the crowd to keep circulation going in my feet, but with no success. Numbness was setting in. I found a hot chocolate dispenser in one of the vans blocking my escape. A man handed me a cup. I debated whether I should drink it, or pour it on my toes. I drank it. It was probably the wrong choice.
It was another 1/2 hour before she waved good-bye to the crowd. A new chant erupted. "TWO THOUSAND TWELVE! TWO THOUSAND TWELVE!" I allowed myself a little daydream. What would happen if I started chanting, "O-BA-MA!" at the top of my lungs? It actually made me giggle out loud through my chattering teeth. Then, she hopped in the black SUV and headed off to Wasilla.
"Look, there's Meghan!", someone shrieked. "Where? Where?" And yes, there she was, Meghan Stapleton herself. The last time I saw her she was being schooled on good manners by Representative Les Gara. This was friendlier territory. "We looove you! You're a bulldog Meghan!!" Stapleton smiled and waved like the Queen...one of those wrist waves. (Another mind movie in which I yell, "JUDAS!")
A little girl asked her mother, "Why can't we go? I'm COLD!" "We have to let the Governor go first, sweetheart. She's going with the police." "Why does she need the police?" "They have to keep people away from her. She needs to be SAFE from crazy people." The girl was about 5.
Palin was finally gone, the gate was open, and me and my fellow prisoners were free! I ran back to my car and realized on the way that I couldn't feel my toes at all. By the time the car warmed up, they started to tingle, then the excruciating pain, then the feeling of throbbing heat. No frostbite, but really close.
Once again, I survived a Palin event, barely. From now on, I'm only doing this if it's indoors!
(Original post on Mudflats - Tiptoeing Through the Muck of Alaskan Politics)