I vote in Brooklyn. When I heard that Hillary’s election night watch party would be in the Javits Center on the Hudson River, I thought that somewhere in that 1.8 million square feet arena there might be room for me. In all the Presidential elections I’ve worked in, I’ve never been in the right city for a candidate’s own election night party, whether it be a wake or a celebration.
I applied for press credentials to represent SeniorWomen Web, whose credentials I carried at the Democratic and Republican Conventions. That rejection came within a few days. Next I applied for general admission. The e-mail confirmation came within 15 minutes. It said go to the Javits Center on W 34th St. Then it added, Can Hillary Count on You? Donate now. Once it had my e-mail address, hillaryclinton.com sent me half a dozen e-mails each day asking for something.
As I walked down 34th St. from the subway exit on Tuesday evening, I could see stenciled into the sidewalk Hillary Clinton’s head and the words “Madame President #IFEELLIKEHILLZ. I saw a good half dozen of these before I got to the Javits Center. There was a barricade at 10thAve. 34th. Police said they were only letting in those with some sort of special ticket. The staff member answering questions said that entrance was only for staff, VIPs and press. I wasn’t any of those. However, since I wasn’t press, I had decorated my press vest with a dozen different Hillary pins that I had picked up at or since the Convention. On my head was a cap that said Hillary for President 2008. I looked like I belonged inside the Javits Center with the rest of the celebrants.
There was a crowd at that entrance, none of whom were happy to be told to walk up to 40th St. to try to get in there. But there they went. On the way up Tenth Ave. all the cross streets were barricaded, the cops were plentiful, several venders were hawking their Hillary wares, and some doors were open to “private” events – requiring still more tickets. Everyone wanted to be at or around the Javits Center.
At 40th St. the crowd was thick. We were funneled into a sidewalk. Packed between barricades and buildings like the proverbial sardines we moved in spurts west on 40th St. to 11th Ave. and then to 12th Ave. Sometimes we didn’t move at all. This was not for the faint of heart, or those who had trouble walking or didn’t like crowds. At 12th Ave. there were more blockades, keeping people from mixing with the cars speeding down the street. There we halted and waited for 10-15 minutes. We could see that a larger group had been passed to the other side of the street and was walking east on the sidewalk, across the street from the sidewalk where we had been walking west. No one told us where we were going or why.
When our turn came a couple hundred people moved slowly on the sidewalk next to the Javits center until we got to a large entrance where everyone was diverted inside. Staff told us to have our tickets ready. All I had was my e-mailed confirmation, but I assumed that was a ticket. No one asked to see it. Inside the cavernous hall staff told people to split into blue tickets, yellow tickets and general admission. I didn’t see anyone holding a blue or yellow ticket, but I figured I was general admission since all I had was an e-mail confirmation.
We were channeled into lines to go through security. I could see metal detectors off to one side, but my group was not directed to go there. We were split into ten lines. When I reached the front of mine, I was rather perfunctorily wanded. I wasn’t sure why we got off so light, but I would find out shortly. From there we were directed out another entrance and back onto the same sidewalk next to the Javits Center. It seems our detour was just to go through security in a larger space. When we got back to 11thAve. we were let loose into the street. There were no staff, or instructions, or signs, or anything to indicate where to go next. I walked down that street wondering we where we were supposed to go into the Javits Center.
The closer I got to 34th St. the thicker the crowd. There were barricades to keep us from going down any of the side streets to another Avenue, or to the area in front of the Javits Center itself. I passed food trucks where people stood in very long lines. In the distance was a Jumbotron with someone on the screen discussing the election returns, whose words could barely be heard. Around 36th St. people were packed too tightly to move. They occupied 11th Ave. from barricade to barricade. It seemed we were corralled on 11th Ave. with no place else to go and no one available to answer our questions.
I surmised we were supposed to watch and listen to the election returns on the Jumbotron while standing in the street. No one had warned me that this was all the general admission e-mail was good for. At least it wasn’t cold, but I knew I couldn’t stand for five hours in the street, and I couldn’t even hear what the person on the screen was saying. At lot of others were grumbling, and some were calling friends to tell them not to come.
I went back to the opening where we had entered 11th Ave. but the cop wouldn’t let us go back toward 12th Ave. There was an opening to exit down 40th St. to 10th Ave. and a lot of people were going through it. They were warned by the cops that once they passed they couldn’t return, at least not without retracing the path on the other side of the street from 10th Ave. to 12th Ave. and back through security. Despite this warning, I didn’t see anyone change their mind. There were a lot of unhappy campers on 11thAve. They thought they were going to watch the election returns and party inside the Javits Center, not stand in the middle of 11thAve. trying to hear a barely audible Jumbotron.
At some point I too gave up on the idea that I might get in and left. At home at least I could hear the returns and do it sitting down.
High expectations. Unexpected failure. A good metaphor for this entire election.
Instead of spending the night standing in the street, it looks like I will spend the next four years protesting in the streets.