I arrived on site a little after 4. By the time I walked to the front of the Arena and went inside it was about 4:20. That's when I queued up at the end of the line. For the next 1 1/2 hours, until a little after 6PM, we moved forward in fits and starts, turning various corners, and passing an empty Arena on the way to the back of the Arena building and the main entrance to The Venue.
Let me say this about that: bare knuckle presidential politics is no place for shy little wallflowers. If you're out in a very public venue doing very public activities then you're going to have your photo taken, your words recorded, and your actions folded, spindled, and mutilated, and it gets worse from there. If you don't want your photo taken then you shouldn't be there. Normally I try to be accomodating, but after standing in a slow moving line for nearly two hours on medically certifiable bad knees (I had to park in a handicap slot, and then slowly walk to stand in line), and then to have the doors abruptly closed in my face, well, let's just say that I wasn't at my most sweet and cheerful best at that point.
As luck (good or bad, take your choice) would have it I was parked on the side of the Jay Bergman Field. For whatever reason I started to walk to the front gate, just to see what was there. When I got there the front gate was standing wide open. I went in, look about for a few moments, then climbed up into the stands that were facing where the security detail for the First Lady was parked. The photo below shows what a clear view I had of the entire detail. Not very secure if you ask me. But then I guess you could call it the digital equivalent of counting coup.
Gabrielle Giffords. There are enough crazies in this world that you make damn sure to check your perimeter, and make sure that your perimeter is secure. Leaving the gate to Jay Bergman standing wide open, and not even challenging me when spotted in the area, is a major screwup on UCF's part. Even when I was walking up to the open gate I passed a UCF marked car parked in plain site on E. Plaza Dr. Either the officer didn't see me, or he didn't care. I'll never know. But I hope in the future that they pay a little better attention to the immediate area like that. I should have been at least approached coming back. The fact I got in there and back without challenge is disturbing. It isn't like I was moving quickly or stealthily, not with my gimpy knees.
So, what do I take away from all this? If this campaign stop is any indication then the Orlando campaign office is in need of some serious training on how to schedule and run an event. My wife was there and she confirmed that the event in The Venue was the worse thing she'd ever participated in. With the exception of the handicapped and the big-money donors everybody else had to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in that overheating venue. I had a clue when those who had made it into The Venue started to straggle out, complaining of the long standing time and the heat. Some of them were students who'd been in there since around noon, others were older.
I have been to many a conference, and I have never seen anything as poorly run. First of all the main "attraction" should have been held in the arena, with spillover in The Venue. Audio/Video should have been piped out of the arena and into the spillover areas so that everyone could see and hear the first lady. I attend a Methodist church that does this every Easter to accommodate the huge overflow crowds. Maybe the local Obama campaign crew should get with First United Methodist of WIndermere for tips on how to handle something like this in the future.
Finally, a little more sensitivity and professionalism is in order. Talk to people. If people are spending hours standing in line, communicate with them constantly, cheerfully and clearly. If I hadn't know better I would have sworn I was at a Republican event with the amount of indifference we were shown. That means stay off the bloody smartphones, at least out in the open.
I don't know what I'll do after today. But if this is the way operations are run then I'll just check the local news in the future and watch in on TV. Oh. And one other thing. I'm registered to vote in Orange County. I grew hoarse repeating that over and over again. If somebody shows up to attend a campaign event that should be a pretty strong clue that they're registered to vote.
* My sainted wife convinced me to use a less profane title for this entry. The one I had in mind included the word "cluster".