On not seeing (or hearing) a major candidate in person, part 2 of 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's post.

After we'd stood in line for a while, my daughter decided to take another walk and see how far the line had extended beyond us, since the end was once again out of sight. I remained in our place, visiting with the people next to me—two of whom, it turned out, had gone to the same small college I'd attended . . . a couple of decades after I was there. This gave us quite a lot to talk about. They also had an extremely cute, active, and pleasantly distracting little kid with them.

Our scout was gone for a very long time. Something like an hour, maybe a bit more.

When she came back, she had located both ends of the line, with the intention of mapping the whole thing's extent and course.

By then it was a little after 3 p.m. The candidate's talk was scheduled to begin at 3:30. We had progressed a few hundred feet along the line. Even if the talk began an hour late, as political talks sometimes do, the amount of time it would take to simply walk the distance between us and the front of the line meant we were kind of unlikely to get into the Oval before the event was over. My daughter had homework to do, and my back and knees were beginning to object to the hours of standing on concrete . . . and if I was home I could always spend the time trying out yet another way to get around the glitch in the layout file for the book.

So we decided to improve the chances that a few of the people behind us in the line might get into the Oval by taking ourselves out of the mix and heading home.

Here are some of those people whose prospects got better because of our departure: part of the line about 3/10 of a mile (.5 km) east of where we'd been standing, photographed as we walked back to our bikes.


Here, out of sequence, is the map we assembled after we got home:


  • X: Where we parked our bikes.
  • Red: People standing in line; looked like they were averaging about three across.
  • Green arrows: Direction of movement toward the Oval (we walked in the opposite direction to find the end).
  • Section shaded light orange: The part of the line shown in yesterday's photos.
  • 1: Where we joined the line.
  • 2: Where we were in line when we decided to call it a day.
  • 3: Location of the end of the line at the time when we left.
  • Scale: Note the 1/10 mile (161 m) indicator at the lower right. By the highly scientific method of marking the distance on a piece of paper and marking off intervals on a printout of the map, the extent of the red line shown on the map above is about 2.7 miles (4.3 km).

Homeward bound, my daughter and her bike (my bike is almost identical: same scratch-and-dent sale, although we haven't found the scratches and dents yet):


On the bike ride to the political gathering, I had declared that on the way home I intended to get a photograph of a particular piece of public art. I've passed it a number of times, but it's at the base of a long grade on which I am not inclined to stop if I have any momentum at all. It's the sort of slope where I just keep going slower and slower and slower until it seems like I'm going to be going so slowly I'll fall over and have to walk up. I haven't had to walk it yet, but there's always that risk.

Anyway, we did stop for pictures and here's the sign, seen along with the upper half of the hill, which doesn't look so bad when you're not pedaling up it:


Here's a close-up, taken from the other side, with the sun at a more favorable angle:


The person at the top of the triangle is dressed in slightly different colors on the two sides.

The sign's thought seemed appropriate to the day and the gathering, as well as the hill.


The online version of the local newspaper was doing regular updates of what was happening at the political event, and when we arrived home the website indicated that the political candidate had just started speaking.

Monday's newspaper called it a "partisan crowd," which it mostly was, although I saw at least one person standing in line wearing a jacket with a bumper sticker for the other party's candidate neatly applied to its back. The paper also estimated that there were 45,000 to 50,000 people in the Oval. It also said, "Lines started forming before 5 a.m. . . ., many crowding into the Oval at the last minute, some never getting in at all."

By our observation, while there were "some" people there before 5 a.m.—and even at 11 a.m., when the paper estimated the line was a mile (1.6 km) long, going in a direction where we couldn't have seen it from the main road as we drove by after our breakfast—I'd have said that "many" never got in at all, based on the length of the line past the point where we were standing.

I heard by e-mail from the folks who'd been next to us: when the speech ended, they had moved to about 200 yards (180 m) outside the entrance (which we actually thought was darn good progress). There's no telling how many people abandoned their positions in all parts of the line, as we did ours, or if the line kept growing after we departed.

On most Monday mornings, I have a meeting at a coffee shop across the street from position 3 in the map above. This morning the staff said that their shop and all of the other restaurants in the area had been crowded all afternoon with people who'd taken a look at the line and decided to bag it and go sit in comfort instead of standing around.

It's hard to guess how many more people would have attended if the space had allowed. Another quarter? Half again as many?


In sum: my daughter and I had a great bike ride on a pleasant afternoon; met some new people we're glad to know; and got a photo of a sign we'd been wanting to document. We also got to do some great people-watching.

But I still haven't seen or heard a major political candidate in person.


2 thoughts on “On not seeing (or hearing) a major candidate in person, part 2 of 2”

  1. I got to hear Hilary Clinton in Kentucky right before her candidacy ended. The line was ridiculously long. Instead, I stood just beyond the enormous boundary and listened to her speak. I could see her head bobbing. That was enough for me.

    It’s funny, growing up near DC, I didn’t realize how often I saw “major” politicians in person and what a big deal it was. To me, they were carpool dads, annoying traffic jams for motorcades, or people I jostled while at some function or other. I just didn’t realize. I was so blase about the whole thing that when offered a chance to see a president up close? I chose to stay back at the DC office I interned at and answered the phone. My response? He puts on his pants one leg at a time; then his motorcade really clogs up traffic near the office! Now that I live in the hinterlands, I understand better that what I experienced was “special.”

  2. I’ve seen Biden, many times. He spoke at my daughter’s high school graduation. Delaware being such a small state, he’s been seen often by us folks.

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