Let the record show that in XXX on June 28, 2006, the skies threatened to rain all day. Let the record further show that the MINUTE TAKER was not contacted in any way by the MoveOn PAC XXX Chapter Volunteer Coordinator M about the details for the scheduled Oil Free Congress Media Event. Were the MINUTE TAKER but an ordinary volunteer, that would probably have been the end of it; yet civic determination prevailed, and an inquiry about the event's status was sent directly to the XXX MoveOn PAC Field Organizer J.
Organizer J responded: "All events are rain or shine."
The record must show the MINUTE TAKER's disbelief in J's claim -- there can be no other explanation for how the MINUTE TAKER arrived at the pre-designated intersection, as the first drops finally came down, without an umbrella. And so it was with mixed feelings that, at 5:02pm, the MINUTE TAKER observed no signs of Operation Democracy in action -- indeed, the MINUTE TAKER could not even find the pre-designated gas station (a Texaco) amid the intersection's four gas stations (a BP, two Mobils, and a Shell).
Let the record show that it was now rush hour.
At 5:12pm, after three loops around the block, the MINUTE TAKER pulled into the Shell to see if any wi-fi signals were around. After three minutes of fruitless laptop wrangling, the MINUTE TAKER was startled by a knock on the car window.
A man, already wet by rain, held up a flyer that said "HIGH GAS PRICES?" The MINUTE TAKER had no time to react before the man handed over the flyer and said:
"Here -- it's about the election."
The man turned and hurried away across the station plaza.
It must be noted that the flyer, which described the XXX District Representative's acceptance of large sums of Oil Lobby money ("Caught red-handed!" said the flyer), was not in any discernible way about the election.
At 5:16pm, The MINUTE TAKER followed this man around to the parking lot behind the gas station, where M was standing with a group of MoveOn Democracy Operatives.
There was a stack of almost 300 'Caught Red Handed' fliers, a case of 24 bottles of water, five umbrellas, and nine Democracy Operatives. (Only three of these Operatives had also attended the Sunday Potluck.) The Democracy Operatives (and their fliers) were already damp, but the mood was bright.
At 5:17pm, a question was asked: might other Democracy Operatives be unable to find the group because the designated gas station was a Texaco that did not actually exist? M shrugged, and noted that it still said 'Texaco' on the station's air pump. And so it did.
Let the attendance record show that B.T., challenger to the incumbent Representative of District XXX, was present. B.T. was attending strictly as a volunteer; let the record further show that Candidate B.T. seems to be a really nice guy.
At 5:18pm, M re-established the Objectives for the Operation Democracy Oil Free Congress media event:
• Approach fellow citizens in the gas station plaza.
• Hand 'Caught red-handed!' fliers to fellow citizens as they pump gas.
• Take back Congress.
At 5:21pm, it was announced that the Shell Station Attendant had denied the use of the Shell plaza for this Operation Democracy Event.
Alternative strategies were discussed.
Candidate B.T. grabbed a sizable stack of fliers and a clipboard, opened his umbrella, and walked straight to the median of -- Street, where he proceeded to hand fliers through windows. Let the record show that Candidate B.T. is a man of initiative.
At 5:23pm, having walked to the Northeast corner of the intersection and into the Mobil located on that corner, M showed the flyer to the attendant and asked for permission. The attendant raised his arms and said 'if my boss comes by, you ain't talked to me.'
Upon exiting the station, an excited M answered his phone:
"Whattup. Yeah I got fuckin' twenty people out here."
(Let the record show that the MINUTE TAKER counted eleven.)
"We're tryin to get some fuckin' Republicans out of office. I got people at the BP, the Shell and both Mobils. Yeah, come if you want. Peace."
At 5:28pm, M's girlfriend, S, arrived. S had printed out six large signs at Kinkos, reading 'Grand Oil Party' and 'High Gas Prices?' in bold black print.
The MINUTE TAKER asked M when the media would arrive at this media event. M replied that he had called "a bunch of names off a list" that had been supplied to him by Regional Coordinator R. M had left messages for all. "But I mean, even if they came, I don't know how they would find us."
S suggested that the group could concentrate itself at the corner of the intersection (Northeast), where the display would be more visible to any potential media sources. But M (and the rest of the group) seemed content to roam freely among the traffic, holding the signs or handing out fliers, unconcerned with the appearance thereby presented to the media.
The MINUTE TAKER was assigned to the eastern median of the intersection with C, a retired housewife. Let the record show that C was rather good at walking right up to cars and handing the fliers through their improbably lowered windows, but between C and the young lady selling Peanut M&Ms out of a cooler, the MINUTE TAKER decided to stray from this assignment in search of turf that was less saturated, and perhaps not quite so close to the flow of traffic.
Let the record show that it was still rush hour, and there was a brisk rain, and that XXX was recently rated among the very worst cities in America for dangerous traffic.
At 5:45PM, M mounted a trash can at the corner of the intersection (Northwest), faced traffic, and held high above his head a sign in each hand ('Grand Oil Party' on the left, and 'High Gas Prices?' on the right). M punctuated this message by nodding his head, as if at a live performance of popular music.
Let the record show that cars did honk, and drivers did wave.
Let the record further show that S, who is a comely young lady, was without an umbrella, and was wearing a tight white shirt. (Though the following point was not verbalized during the Oil Free Congress Media Event, the MINUTE TAKER must question, for the record, the wisdom of this wardrobe choice. It should be noted, however, that the frequency and duration of honking on her side of the street was noticeably higher.)
At 5:55PM, Candidate B.T. approached the MINUTE TAKER. The Candidate was also wearing a white shirt, not so tight as S's but substantially more translucent (despite his umbrella). Disregarding the visibility of his own chest hair, Candidate B.T. asked the MINUTE TAKER for 'a reload' of fliers. The MINUTE TAKER's own supply was by now so wet that it was rather difficult to separate a single sheet. Candidate B.T. and the MINUTE TAKER split the mushy stack and dispersed back into the field.
From 5:58PM to 6:13PM, the MINUTE TAKER logged the following interactions at the Mobil station (southeast):
• handed a flier to a man in a business suit, who grunted.
• handed the flier to a man filling the tank of a van with at least 12 working-age males inside; no eye contact was made.
• draped the flier over the gas-pumping hand of a woman who's other hand was busy with an engrossing cell phone call.
• had a flier trapped by a window that was being closed in response to the MINUTE TAKER's approach.
• crumpled up a flier and stuffed it in the exhaust pipe of an H2 Hummer (OK, just thought about that one).
At 6:15PM, Candidate B.T. -- who had been walking up and down the three lanes of stopped traffic for more than half an hour -- handed out his last flier. M made a joke about a nearby van about to 'move on' the Candidate.
Let the record show that, after some practice, all Democracy Operatives reported success with the method of 'just hand it to them and keep walking.'
At the conclusion of the Oil Free Congress Media Event, the Operation Democracy team met for a picture in front of the Mobil sign (northeast). Candidate B.T. invited us all to volunteer with his campaign, but qualified the statement by saying that it could not be in any official capacity with MoveOn. A brief impromptu speech followed, in which Candidate B.T. informed us that the XXX District incumbent is in the top ten in Congress for the highest amount of accepted Oil Lobby funds. The incumbent took one of the most expensive trips around the world offered to a Representative last year, and came back supporting a foreign dictatorship.
Candidate B.T. shook hands with the Democracy Operatives, shook the water off of his clipboard, and walked away. A Democracy Operative leaned over to the MINUTE TAKER and asked, 'who's that dude?'
See some media from this event here