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Volunteering at the Republican National Convention – Day 1

September 7, 2008

Monday, September 1st, 2008.  My wife and I volunteered for the Republican National Convention (RNC) in St. Paul, Minnesota.  We thought that this would be a great opportunity to be a part of history since it’s been 116 years since the convention has been in the state of Minnesota.  So Gerine and I head out to the Volunteer Headquarters to pick up our credentials (cool blue badge at the left) and our official bright orange RNC polo shirts.  We go to our assigned sites to meet the rest of our teams.  Gerine met her team in front of The Saint Paul Hotel and I head out to the Linus and Lucy statue on 5th and Market to meet the rest of my team at 12:30pm.  I’m a little early but there are a couple of people there already – a high school student and a gentleman that works in downtown St. Paul.

12:35pm – There are about 10 of us waiting for our Team Leader.  One of the people waiting is from Vienna, Austria and another is from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

12:40pm – There are about 15 of us now and we’re wondering if our Team Leader got lost.  A couple of protesters walk by carrying signs.  They look pretty harmless.

12:45pm – Still no Team Leader.  Fortunately, I have my cell phone with me so I call the Volunteer Helpline.

“Hello, Volunteer Helpline.”

“Hi, my name is Todd.  I’m on 5th & Market with a bunch of other people waiting for our Team Leader.  Can you help us?”

“Your Team Leader isn’t there?”

“Right.”

“What’s your number and we’ll call you back?”

12:55pm – No Team Leader yet and the  Volunteer Helpline hasn’t called back. I’m wondering if the RNC is using the same helpline company I call when my electronic devices quit working.  “We’ll get back to you in 48 business hours…”

1:00pm – The head organizer for the orange polo shirts is walking by and nearly doesn’t survive the onslaught of now 20 adults in orange shirts who have no leader.  Head organizer pulls out the almighty Blackberry and makes a few calls.  He apologizes and says the Team Leader is on the way.

1:15pm – Team Leader shows up.  He was already inside the Excel Energy Center with another team and didn’t know about us and apologizes again and again.  Gerine has already been inside the building for the past 45 minutes with her team.

My assignment for the week is to stand outside the doors of elevators 3 and 4 on the Club Level with a Security Guard and a Excel Guest Services personnel.  I am to give directions on where things are located.  Unfortunately, I don’t know where anything is located so I rely on the Excel Guest Services personnel.  It’s his first day on the job.  Good thing it’s a short day today.

It’s about 5:45pm, the RNC is done for the day and I’m walking back to the place to pick up the volunteer shuttle back to my car.  My car is somewhere across the river in St. Paul.  My wife had called and said that she would meet me back at the car.  I get to the volunteer shuttle pick-up spot only to find out that because of today’s protests the Wabasha bridge was closed and I would have to walk.  As I pass a few people approaching the bridge, I see this man with 6 – 8 cameras draped around his neck.  The kind of cameras with the huge white lenses – 12″ to 18″ long.  He says he’s a photographer but he doesn’t have any media credentials on him.  He is complaining to two other people that the police told him twice to leave an area (right in front of the RNC where 200 others were gathered) or get arrested.  His response to his two listeners was; “Man, you won’t believe it.  It’s like Kent State all over again down there…” I bow my head slightly and shake it in dis-belief wondering if this photographer was even alive in 1970 when the Kent State shootings happened.  He wouldn’t have been given a second chance to leave or get arrested at Kent State.

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