I’m truly humbled by the response to my book tour by everyday Americans, and if traveling by plane means that I can meet more of these wonderful people, I’ll travel by plane (or bus or train or canoe or dog sled or whatever it takes). - Sarah Palin
And because you feel this way about us, we will wait in the dead of night, sleep in our cars, in the pouring rain, the blinding snow or whatever it takes to meet you, too.
I arrived at the BJ's parking lot in Fairfax, VA around 1 am. I tweeted some and then took a two hour nap in the "Right Wing Express," otherwise known as my car, the one with the "Sarah kicks (picture of a donkey)" and "Palin 2012" bumper stickers. Not exactly a dog sled, but a pretty good liberal tweaker while riding by on the highway.
Whe I awoke around 4 am, the crowd was getting in line as temperatures hovered around 40 degrees. Dressed in layers, I situated my chair and chatted on the phone with a friend of mine who works the night shift as a newspaper distributor. The conversation was full of politics: discussions about climategate, how hypocritical liberals are and what Palin's chances for 2012 were.
Light rain began to fall prior to dawn, so I headed back to the car, tweeted some more, got my umbrella and headed back to my chair. It was cold, and the temperature was dropping.
As the dark sky morphed into a cloudy daylight, the rain fell heavier and heavier. Umbrellas were open everywhere. It was miserable, except for the mood of the people. There was no complaining. There was no disconnect between the people. This was not a mightier than thou leader that people would have thoughts of like "I bet she's sleeping in some warm bed somewhere while we freeze." Instead, the conversation was about how distastefully the media treated Sarah about "the plane." We talked about how great the plane was because, as I pointed out to another gentleman in the crowd, "did you see her schedule? It's crazy."
There were discussions of how many seconds would be needed per person for Sarah Palin to sign her name. It wasn't about us, it was about how hard Sarah was working. It wasn't about "give me the autograph, I waited hours for it." It was about "let's follow the rules and move quickly out of respect for Sarah's time."
At a little after 8 am, the rain changed to snow. As the snow fell heavier and the temperature had dropped even more, the crowd still grew as did the anticipation. BJ's employees gave out wrist bands. More people joined the line. The police and BJ officials saw to it that those of us who did not have the book yet or a BJ's membership were given the opportunity to take care of those issues without losing their place in line.
The one police officer who kept me informed so I knew when it would be my turn to get my membership and pick up my books performed his duty with good humor and professionalism despite being covered in snow.
When I returned to the line armed with my books, a man named Jimmy and I talked about Sarah Palin's qualifications. She's not part of that Washington establishment. People are turned off by the establishment. She's one of us. She's a mother of five. If America is to elect its first woman president, it will have to be someone of good moral character and without the blemishes of scandals and affairs. He said that her resignation helped her put the time in necessary to meet the people and learn more about foreign policy. I mentioned how she was demonstrating that on her Facebook page.
The line moved and we were now on the sidewalk heading for the door. Ironically, it was during a conversation about Fox News that we were having that I heard people toward the back of the line yelling out "it's Greta Van Susteran!" Greta had emerged from a car and was walking away, passing the line behind me toward a side entrance into BJ's.
The line moved quickly. Inside, it was a matter of about 5-10 minutes that I was at the table with my books prepared for signature. Todd Palin said hello and we shook hands. I said "it's a pleasure to meet you." Then I stepped over to Sarah and she looked at my shirt, with a picture of her on it and the words "Say it ain't so, Joe." She was all energy and enthusiam. We shook hands. I had touched greatness.
"Honored to meet you," I said. She smiled and had that raised pitch in her voice, as she took immediate notice and reacted enthusiastically saying "I love your shirt!" I said "thanks, I wore it to your rallies" as she was signing two books. I thanked her and moved on. It was so quick, but worth every hour standing in the elements. She was radiant and she was genuine.
(UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO SEE SARAH PALIN LOOKING AT MY SHIRT. END UPDATE)
I met her parents. Chuck and Sally. They were so personable. They also loved the shirt. What a cool couple of people!
I lost my bearings at that point and didn't know which way I was supposed to go. Flashes were going off, people were taking pictures and I was momentarily lost. I tried to make a mental note of the name of a person from twitter who recognized me, but I was still leaving the moments from when I was in Sarah Palin's presence.
I went to get bags to wrap my books in to protect them from the snow. The lady who worked at customer service was excited. She asked me to show her Sarah's signature, which I did. She thought that was so awesome.
I left the store in the full glow that I had finally achieved the one thing I never did when Reagan was alive.
I quickly put the books in the car to protect them from the three inches of snow that had already fallen. I got my brush out of the trunk, cleared the car and warmed it up. I tweeted and texted. All hell broke loose. The texts were flying back in. My friends were calling. I was alone in my car, yet it was mayhem.
As I drove back to Richmond, VA, I spoke to my business partner who couldn't have been happier for me. I spoke to a couple of other friends. The text messages were pouring in, but I couldn't read them while driving. As I neared the northern suburbs of Richmond, the snow changed to rain. There was no snow in Richmond. If you wanted snow, you had to go where the lady from the north was.
Prior to the trip, I told a friend of mine what I was doing. He asked me if I ever got up that early to go to Black Friday or to get to a store for a sale. I told him, "if I'm going to get up that early to go to any store, Sarah Palin better be there, otherwise forget it."
While on line, someone came back from the parking lot and said there was a small group of protestors, about 3 or 4 I surmised (UPDATE: TPM reported 4 protestors). (END UPDATE) One of the guys I was talking with said "this is great snow for packing snowballs."
"That's perfect," I said. "Where are the liberals?" We laughed.
(UPDATE) One of the first things I noticed about Governor Palin when I first saw her was her hat. She has been getting a lot of compliments about it. (END UPDATE)
On my way home, the "Right Wing Express" passed a car with an Obama bumper sticker on it. There were two 30ish year old white men inside. I showed them Going Rogue against my driver side window. The driver gave me the finger and the passenger waved, shaking his head "no, no." We were all laughing, ribbing each other. I gave them a thumbs up, pointing to the book, shaking my head affirmatively, laughing. It was great.
It's all about the great moments. It's all about the light that shines brightly in the snow.
The Hat that everyone loved
The shirt that Sarah loved
Need I say more?
I'm in this video briefly at the 1:46 mark and 2:43 mark
Sarah Palin arrives at BJ's in Fairfax, VA in the snow
Fairfax, VA Palin book signing links:
Palin fans out for a look and a book in Fairfax
Alaska? Feel like home for Gov Palin?
Sarah Palin Brings First Snow, Signs Books
Fairfax Goes Rogue
Sarah Palin Looks Nice In Fairfax The Gridiron Transcript: Biden Selling Book: Going Rogaine
Madame Meets Virginia!
Pictures: Palin book signing pics
Video: Fans wait in snow for Palin book signing
Video: Beck: Palin "looks really hot in that hat"
Other People's Experiences
My Colorado Springs Signing Extravaganza - Julie Smith
december 9 2009: meeting governor palin in colorado springs - The Design Conservative
Sarah in the Springs - Michelle Malkin
Going Rogue with Governor Palin in Rochester, NY--Pics & Video - Adrienne Ross
Conservative Girl With a Voice
Meeting Sarah: Part One
Meeting Sarah: Part Two