Postcard from Charlotte: Behind the Scenes on Tuesday

By Stephanie Vardavas of Portland, Oregon. Stephanie is a political activist, attorney, mediator, and arbitrator. Here's yesterday's "Postcard from Charlotte".

I wish I could tell you everything I saw and did today. But if I did I'd have to kill you.

Today was the first day of the Convention but I saw none of it from the front of the stage. I spent my morning shift teamed with a nice Secret Service agent named Matt, guarding the entrance to the principal direct entrance to the backstage area. Matt is a 14 year Secret Service veteran and an interesting guy. I will say no more in this space.

My midday break was in some ways more challenging than my morning shift. My principal priorities were lunch, a place to sit down, and possibly a discreet nap (although I had little hope for the last). My plan was to buy some food from one of the concession stands, take it upstairs to the 200 level seats where the alternates and guests would sit a few hours later, pick a nice dim area, and chill for a couple of hours. I was dumbfounded to discover that my blue Podium credential would not admit me to the 200 level seats! The polite but firm volunteers in charge informed me that a Podium credential gave me access to the floor (including the 100 level seats) but not the "hall," which is how the 200 level seats were classified. I couldn't eat lunch in the 100 level seats because food and beverage are prohibited there. Only bottled water is allowed. I was familiar with this restriction because it dates back at least as far as 2000. The parties don't want TV cameras focusing on distracting images of delegates eating hot dogs! It's "off-message."

So I identified myself to the nice volunteers upstairs and they invited me into their volunteer break room, crammed with tables and chairs and equipped with vending machines. This seemed mostly to be in use by volunteers from the local community. I sat down with two women and we chatted happily for awhile about what we were doing there, the weather, the importance of the election, etc. I ate my lunch and felt honor-bound to move on, as the room was getting more crowded.

At 4 pm I presented myself at my second posting of the day, and got an amazing surprise. I was posted at the staircase by which Convention speakers went up to the podium. It was located directly opposite the makeup room and green room and was the domain of an extremely competent woman named Kate, who was wearing a headset and a determined expression. Call her a stage manager, call her a traffic cop, she was running the show. We discussed the nuts and bolts of my job (checking everyone's credentials) with hers (the flow of people) and agreed that we were on the same page. As the Convention was being gaveled to order at 5 pm, my life was about to get interesting.

Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, looking gorgeous. Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, ignoring an ankle sprained just that morning. Party Secretary Alice Germond. Senator Harry Reid, candidate Tammy Duckworth, former Party Chair and Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia, Governors O'Malley of Maryland and Quinn of Illinois, all (and more) passed by in front of me.

But all politics is local and so imagine my happy surprise when I looked up and saw a much more familiar face lining up for her turn on the stage. It was Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, part of the group of Democratic women being led onto the stage by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. But she hadn't seen me yet. I went over and touched her shoulder, saw the look of incredulous delight on her face, and she wrapped me in a huge hug. After a quick greeting I stepped back to my post and she smiled.

Sadly, my shift was scheduled to end at 7:30 so I wasn't there to see the later speakers of the evening. Still, it was an experience I will never forget.

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