She came up to us as we ate a late lunch today at Panera, waving enthusiastically and wearing an Obama t-shirt adorned with several campaign buttons. I’d never seen her before, but my boss who was seated across from me greeted her immediately. I quickly gathered that they knew each other from the hours – the many, many hours – that they’d spent together volunteering at the Obama/Biden campaign office located right down the road.
“So how can we get tickets to the inauguration?” the woman asked my boss.
Laughing, we said that we had just been talking about my being at President Clinton’s inauguration on a frigid January 20, 1993. The Dean had been running for a local office at the time and because of his campaign and our volunteering for the Clinton team, we were able to be part of a bus trip to Washington that day. (We almost didn’t go; with only one of us working and the other in graduate school and a wedding a few months away, $40 was a lot of money at the time.)
“Oh, wow, that must have been something,” the woman said.
Yes, it was, I said, joking that we really didn’t see much and that we spent more time trying to stay warm and finding some food to eat. But still, a great experience.
“A bus trip, yes, that would be perfect!” my boss’ friend said. “But I don’t want to just go, I want to be there. I’ve worked so, so hard for this.”
“You really did,” my boss agreed. “So many people worked so hard. I almost didn’t believe it last night. I couldn’t believe it ….”
The woman sat down at our table and we began talking, the three of us, our voices tripping over one another.
“When Pennsylvania went for Obama – “
“And then Ohio …”
“Virginia was really incredible to see -“
“I was crying!”
“Oh, I couldn’t stop … it was just something truly amazing.”
And then I looked at this woman, this African-American woman who I felt like I’d known forever but only for a few moments. My boss apologized for needing a reminder of her name – Brenda, she said – as they exchanged phone numbers and emails.
“I really hope we can get a bus trip organized,” Brenda said. “I’ve worked so, so hard for this.”
Yes, you have, Brenda. You most certainly have.