Portraits of the Paid Protest

The early hours — of the Women’s March in DC

“Anyone need some coffee?” Doris asked, waving the 10-cup pot high in a general direction to no one in particular, and taking a quick peek at her watch, 5:45AM.  The ladies were busy introducing themselves, Tonya from red-state Tennessee, Margaret from Boca Raton, Cathleen from Denver, with connections to the East Coast, specifically Maryland, ranging from loose to long-term friendships with  Dawn, Doris and Lois.  A hum of simultaneous chatter buzzed — when did you arrive?, what’s the weather like in Denver?, what do you do for a living? — and Doris gently pulled the empty Dunkin Donut cup from Lois — not bothering to wait for a re-fill response.  Doris’ home was closest to DC and the final stop for flushed toilets.

Lois, distracted with questions on how best to carry bottled water, how many layers of sweaters to wear, had anyone seen the latest news numbers of probable attendees, eventually replied “oh, yes thank you Do”.   Lois, 6′ 2″ tall, health-conscious in her mid-50’s wearing a large blue coat with pockets bulging with food, pulled out a half-gallon zip lock bag filled with a mixture of nuts and raisins, organic of course, from Wegmans.

Tonya asked if anyone had read the instructional website on how to behave at a march, nobody had, and suggested a scarf or bandana would be useful for covering the nose and mouth in case the police used mace.   Silence as the ladies rummaged through their totes to see if a scarf could do the trick, Tonya said that would be fine, and Margaret thought that mace sounded bad.  Everyone agreed they had no intention of getting into an altercation that involved mace.  Cathleen noted that getting high in Denver was legal, but no, she couldn’t carry any on the flight, wished she had, and that was the end of the mace conversation.

Lois asked if anyone needed food and everyone said they were good for now, Dawn, in her mid-50’s, who shopped only in the produce aisles, showed off her two-gallon container of sliced apples and quartered oranges and more nods of approvals but no takers, Doris asked if there was any need for more fresh coffee and Tonya said she was already on her third cup.  Cathleen, the youngest in her early 40’s, who trains for Iron-Man’s in the foothills of Denver taking advantage of Rocky Mountain High recoveries, medicinally-speaking, offered up a Tupperware container of chocolate chip cookies made by her pastry-chef step-mom, and the oohs and aahs began as everyone knew that the main ingredient was butter.

“I’ll have one of those.”
“You might as well pass them around.”
“I won’t turn one down.”
“I think I can find room in my pocket, ” Lois said, removing a water bottle.
“I’ll put these apples away for later,” Dawn said, as she joined in the frenzy of retrieving a butter-laden cookie before they were gone, for later of course.  Thought, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to sample a loose crumb, should it happen.

“These are amazing.”
Everyone followed the lead, collectively, taking a mini-bite, followed by eyes closing to a dream state, heads tipping backwards into a pleasure nod to the taste gods and the sweet sensation of sugary rich decadence, likely 100 calories per bite, were duly noted mentally, before dismissed as fuel that would be needed for the long day ahead.

“We’ve got a 20-mile drive to northwest DC, with no traffic.” Dawn said, looking at her watch.
“Do you think there will be traffic at this hour?  It’s a Saturday.”
“I heard there might be over 300,000 coming,” Cathleen said, as she noshed on the rest of her cookie, the only one in the group with a youthful working metabolism.  “Has anyone done anything like this before?”

“Not me, I live in a red state.”
“You mean protest with thousands of other people?  Hell, no.  I don’t even drive during rush hour.”
“I attended a town hall meeting once when the Tea Party tried to cut teacher’s wages.”
“Like teachers have any room to make ends meet.”
“We ran the baggers out of town.”
“You liberals!” Doris said with a grin.
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Cathleen said, handing out a round of high-fives.
“I guess you’re what they call a paid professional.”
“Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice?  I wonder who would be doing the paying?”
“I heard the check’s in the mail.”
Dawn and Tonya laughed at the idea of being paid to get up at this hour and give up a Saturday no less, standing in the cold.  Cathleen and Margaret hoped that someone might pay for their airline tickets and Doris and Lois handed out spare metro cards paid on credit the day before just in case someone needed to ride the metro.
“Hard to imagine he’s our President.”
“I’m still in denial.”

The ladies washed down cookie crumbs with the remaining drips of coffee, wishing Cathleen brought something from Denver to take the edge off.

“Do you think there will be porta-potties when we get there?” Tonya asked.
“I heard this could be the largest march in history.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t drink too much,” Doris said, as she continued to pour coffee into everyone’s paper cups.

“So many support … him.”  Cathleen said, her voice trailing.  She could not say the President’s name, and Doris gave her a squeeze on the shoulders.  Cathleen looked toward her feet, tears welling in her eyes.
“Don’t you worry, more of us don’t.”
“That’s right.  We’re the majority.”
“We the people.”
“It’s about time.”
“That’s why we’re here.”
“You know it, girl.”
“Paid professionals rock.” Dawn said to more high-fives and laughter.
“It’s just so nice to be with you all …”  Cathleen said.  The ladies picked at the remaining cookie crumbs from the Tupperware, and Cathleen smiled noting one less thing to carry.

Lois picked up her trail mix — enough to last a week — pointed at her watch and said let’s go with new-authority, ushering the five ladies toward their coats, and bags, in the direction toward the door, toward the cars, for a drive to DC, followed by a 6 mile walk to the start of the rally, a statement in solidarity, and beyond that not a clue what goes on at a march.

Follow up:  The sisters are still waiting for their protest payments.

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