Monday, May 20, 2024


Commentary: The Life of a Convention Groupie

By Kimberly Lake

Special to WestportNow

Denver—You know what I love about conventions? If you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, (pause, inhale, then say as fast as you can in one breath) who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, (inhale!) you can usually get a ticket for something.  WNDemCon.jpg

If we were deep sea fishing, we’d call it trolling (flash to image of large, sleek, well-outfitted fishing boats cruising up and down the broad avenues of Denver trying to hook the Big One).

So my convention companion (I’ll call him C.C.) and I, feeling like Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, manage to get our fingers onto a precious floor pass to go along with our general admission tickets.

We then look at our watches and realize that if we don’t start now (it’s noon), we’ll never get to the Pepsi Center on time.  But don’t panic! The efficient convention planners have thought of everything when it comes to moving the masses.

Shuttle buses bloom in smoggy bunches (three or four at a time) at every corner.  However, we quickly discover that you need to have proper credentials for the hydraulic doors to open and welcome you onto their red carpet. 

So then you look around for an expert to explain the system, you notice that there are volunteers at every corner carrying tall signs declaring that this corner has a stop for the paper clip committee and the next one has a stop for the post-it note committee, but there are no stops for any of the climate change compatriots because, well, they have to walk. 

In fact, they SHOULD walk, don’t you think? How else are they going to make their point about that—you know, that little reduce your carbon footprint thing?

And everyone wears these big, inescapable rectangular plastic pockets, aka dog tags, around their necks into which you slip your golden ticket So we find our limo, oops, shuttle, climb on and everyone is talking on their cell phones. 

Trying to eavesdrop, hoping to pick up some juicy gossip, all I hear is: “Where are you now?  We’re on a bus at 16th and what’sit and we’re stuck in traffic.

“Actually, I think we’re just going around in circles because I just saw the Hyatt sign for the third time. But I have a ticket to stand in the corridor next to the hot pretzel stand! When we get there, let’s meet at the bottom of the escalator to level 102 (because that’s where most of us are sitting, in the nosebleed seats!).”

The only problem is that’s where everyone else is meeting so when you get there, there’s a mass of people standing at the bottom of the escalator craning their necks and NO ONE is going up.

When I walked up to the group, I whispered to the woman beside me. “What’s going on?” Sure she’d tell me we were waiting for the Queen of England to come down (you do remember that I said the moving stairway was going up?), and she whispered back, “No one. They won’t let us up because there’s a crush of people up there!”

Suddenly someone gave the signal and we were off! The rush to reach the steps faster than Usain Bolt!  At the top, efficiency is the name of the game.  I swear there are more Convention Efficiency Guides (CEG) here than attendees, directing us this way and that, making sure we get to our prescribed destination.

So the CEGs help us find our seats and suddenly the podium bursts into view. And oh my gosh, a little tiny person is talking into the microphone!  To no one apparently because the delegate din is a tidal wave of sound. 

If there were not two Mt. Everest-sized TV screens behind the speaker, we would have no idea what was going on. That’s when I started wishing I could read lips. 

Down on the floor, where east meets west, or north meets south, in the middle of all the delegations, a crush of bodies are all trying to get somewhere, though as far as I could see from the top of the world, there was really nowhere to go.

Anyway, my C.C. went down to elbow his way through the throng to the Connecticut delegation and promptly found himself in the middle of a potential riot, as one honorable Democratic delegate said to another ahead of him:  “Keep it going! Keep it going! Get aggressive!” and the other replied, “There’s nowhere to go.”

And the first one said: “Then start pushing!” and acted on his own advice. And the second one turned around and growled: “Don’t push me!” But the first one kept pushing anyway, and the second one turned around and snapped: “If you push me, I’m going to punch you!” 

Fortunately security arrived at that very moment, and my C.C. was saved from being arrested by simply being there. And the mass finally moved forward, or backwards, I’m not sure which.

Anyway, he climbed over numerous heads and slithered between cell phones to finally reach the Connecticut delegation only to discover no one was there yet although Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri had just walked up to the podium. 

So, disappointed, he returned to my side in time for The Main Event, or Events, as it turned out.  From the walk down memory lane with Senator Kennedy, to the Climb Every Mountain Oratory by Michelle Obama, we were all inspired as one to get back out on the streets and, well, go to all the hip parties.

The one I went to featured the Goo Goo Dolls playing to what was probably their only political audience ever.  There were no piercings or tattoos in sight, except on stage. Oh, did I mention that Howard Dean was there too? 

But before we turned in for the night to massage our aching feet, we reminisced about a poignant moment back at the Pepsi Center. We remembered fondly when the air around us suddenly electrified and the wind surged in the crowded corridor as a swarm of dark suits with earphones permanently glued to their ears ran toward us, turning us all into wallflowers, to make way for the future vice president of our grand country.

Do you know what I loved about this brief moment?  I realized that every single member of the Secret Service detail is going to have to start going to the gym!  Because Joe moves fast, and I’m not sure they can keep up the pace. For he doesn’t waste a moment.

There’s work to be done!  Hands to be shaken.  Pictures to be taken. Perhaps he should hire some Olympic medalists.
Kimberly Lake is a Westport resident.

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