Monday, February 11, 2008

University of Maryland Inches Toward Barack Obama

Continuing today's earlier article, my 16-year old son and I have trekked to College Park, Maryland for an audience with Democratic presidential candidate . My son lets me leave him at the end of a very long line to determine the distance and our chances of getting inside.

I am a bad mother and a very bad person.

Not only have I left my 16-year old at the apparent end of an enormous line, I have also made my way past hundreds of others waiting in bitter cold for probably hours. I search in vain for campus police. None to be found, at least not in this neck of the woods. Having no idea how far away the front of the Comcast Center lies, I continue forward. Five, ten minutes at a fast pace and still no inkling. My thoughts return to my son. Should I return to him?

Instinct pushes me ahead. We have cell phones. At some point, we'll connect. Someone opens a passage through the adjacent parking garage. On the horizon, I glimpse the front steps. Not quite there, but the line moves more steadily. Still no one monitoring. Suddenly, I am torn. Blend in or go back. Hostile student eyes meet my gaze. I am clearly an outsider with no friends or bearings. Even with friends, I don't think these young people would understand. A cut is a cut, one less seat for those who arrived early. Just who do I think I am? Silent venom launches me forward, not back. Finally, I latch upon sympathetic eyes. A small group of students laughing and joking.

"I'm so sorry, but please understand," I plead. "There's something much more . I have to see him. Can I pretend I'm with you?"

"No problem, sure, get in," they reply.

Yes! I hit pay dirt. But what about my son?

"Call him," they urge. "Tell him to go around the other way and join up with you here."

Roger Wilco. Out goes the call. And then the incomprehensible. I'm still trying to process it.

My son walks back where we came from, across the foot bridge, around to the front parking lot. Remember all the campus police who are nowhere to be found? We find them. They are crowded around the front plaza barring access to the line, yellow tape lining the perimeter. No one passes. Not even people meeting people in line. I trudge down the hill hoping to talk sense to them, no longer caring whether I lose sight of the sympathetic students. The cross bearers remain adamant. No one breaches the yellow tape.

"Please, officer, he's my 16-year old son. We've traveled all the way from Baltimore. He skipped school. Won't you let him come with me?"

I am a bad mother and a very bad person. What goes around is about to come around.

"No, ma'am, we can't," he responds with a steely gaze. "If we do it for you, we have to do it for everyone else who wants to bring another person into line."

"Pleeeeeze? Can't you make one tiny exception?"

"No."

"Just this once?"

"No."

"Okay, well how about this...let him take my place. I'll get out of line and he'll take my place. It's more important for him to see than it is for me. What about that?"

"No."

"Uh, you're joking, right?"

"No."

"Why not"

"No one crosses the yellow tape. We have orders."

"I don't understand." I search Steely Gaze for a flicker of humanity. "What could possibly be wrong with me getting out of line and him taking my place? A one for one swap. Come on."

"No."

"Do you know any other word besides 'no'?"

"How about this," Steely Gaze begins. "How 'bout you follow what I'm telling you, realize there will be no exceptions and stop wasting my time?"

Okay, then, be a complete and total idiot who follows orders without question. Leave no room for logical thinking outside the box. Let an innocent 16-year old miss out on a historic political appearance in the supposed Free State. It's all on your head moronic lockstep gestapo.

I reach for the yellow tape to strategize with my son.

"Cross that tape, ma'am, and you're not coming back."

Steely Gaze draws a line in the sand. There's no trace of humanity on his weather-beaten mug. Maybe if he'd stop calling me ma'am I could brainstorm an acceptable alternative. I know I'm aging, but does he have to rub it in?

My son and I move down opposite sides of the tape to converse privately. Campus monitors are within earshot as we quietly agree to fend for ourselves. I will call him when I get to the entrace. Maybe there's an unmonitored area he can cross. In the meantime, he should look for another way inside.

I am a bad mother and a very bad person. The pigeons have come home to roost.

To be continued...

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