Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hunkerin' Down

A few weeks ago, Gustav threatened our area, so we updated our emergency kit, put fresh batteries in the weather alert radio, and kept an eye on the weather forecast. By the time Gustav arrived, we got a lot of rain and about an hour's worth of tornado warnings, but otherwise, our day went on as usual.

Then Ike looked like it was heading our way, but it veered-off toward Texas instead. Again, we simply continued with our regularly scheduled program.

This week, we are again stocking up. The cabinets are full, the cars are filled with gas (we're still borrowing cars while we wait to hear the verdict on our truck), and we've got an ear turned to the radio for updates and information. We do not have an evacuation plan, however. We are not stocking up on drinking water, and our lives will still basically continue as always... we just won't be going into town during the next few days. Until Thursday, to be precise. And that's only because I'm insane.

Today is a home football game. The campus opened to tailgaters and RV parking at 4am this morning. That's standard for home football game Saturdays. Our general MO for home game Saturdays is to hang out at home and get stuff done around here. At 6pm, we head to WalMart. Why 6pm? That's when the football game starts. The 60,000 spectators in the stands and the 80,000 tailgaters will be in the stadium or glued to the big screen TVs they hauled to the campus watching the game. It's the perfect time to go grocery shopping. WalMart is on our side of town, so that's where we go during game day. We don't want to have to drive by campus just in case we run late at the store, and even if we leave late, at least we'll be going against the flow of traffic.

You may be thinking, "Well, you should be used to game Saturdays by now. What's the big deal?" It is a big rivalry weekend, so the crowd will be even larger, but that's not what makes this game Saturday different from every other. In fact, there will not be another game Saturday like this before Frodo graduates. That's because yesterday They started arriving.

Private jets began buzzing over our house on their way to the University airport yesterday. They'd fly over, land, then fly over again... presumably on their way to Memphis to hang out for the week since the University airport can't house all the planes and helicopters in need of a resting place this coming week. The kids would hear a plane coming and begin scanning the sky. "There it is!" they'd cry. "Here They come," I'd sigh internally.

I have been conflicted about the arrival of Them since hearing they were coming a few months ago. As a resident of our small, university town, I think about the increased income it will mean and am happy that I will benefit from the freshly paved roads and other public works projects that were put on the fast track over the past few months. However, I have had to suffer through closed roads, constantly changing traffic patterns, security fences and jumbotrons popping up like mushrooms overnight, and the rapidly developing single-mindedness of business owners, local government officials, local media, and university higher-ups. As a homeschool mom, I think about what a great opportunity this is for my children. They will probably never have an opportunity to witness something like this again. What a great opportunity for discussion of government, politics, campaigning, and rights vs. privileges. But we're also going to have to cover topics like discrimination, the KKK, talking points, sound bites, and spin.

What could cause both energizing excitement and paralyzing dread?

That's right... as of yesterday, if you don't include the Secret Service agents and construction workers setting-up two 8' perimeter fences, one interior/ one exterior, and the media tent on campus over the last few months, the media, politicos, and security began descending on our town of 20,000. (Well, if you include the students, it's almost twice that.)

Since we found out the dabate was coming to town, the papers and my email box have been full of requests for apartments, houses, and rooms for rent during debate week. Last week, Frodo received an email offering him (and every student, staff, and faculty member) $10 worth of credit at the student union food court if he didn't park on campus this week. The security fences, media tent, and closed parking lots around the debate site have caused many commuter students, like Frodo, to park off-campus and shuttle in to class. (The shuttle service into town and to some surrounding apartment complexes is actually a very positive improvement that we hope the university will continue after the debate. This town really needs a good shuttle service.) Classes are canceled Friday, debate day, and some professors are canceling classes the night before so students don't have to battle through those setting up for Rock the Vote and the increased security that will begin on the eve of the candidates' arrivals.

If I were sane, I would stay hunkered and not emerge from our lovely home until next Saturday and just survey the damage. But, I'm not sane. I'm a homeschooler. I trucked my kids to Washington, DC to attend Ronald Reagan's funeral in 2004 (Frodo was an accomplice on that one). Also in 2004, I took, alone, four kids, in the rain, surrounded by the scent of chocolate, to hear Presdient Bush speak when he was campaigning for re-election in Hershey, PA. We stood in line at security for hours, and I had to bring a note from our doctor to show the Secret Service agents (which they quite enjoyed and passed down the line of metal detectors) explaining why Terzo, just shy of 4 years old at the time, was probably going to set-off the metal detectors (he had swallowed a quarter a couple days before and hadn't passed it by the day of the speech). If I have the opportunity to allow my children to experience history and national events first hand, I'm going to take it. That's why, on Thursday, we are heading downtown to attend our town's parade, local and state politicians' stump speeches, and the taping of a radio show. Friday, assuming I have enough car seats and the couple whose kids I watch during the day decide to brave the trek to their office on Friday (otherwise, I'll just have my kiddos), I am going to take 6 kids to campus to see the Rock the Vote events and get a taste of the debate experience.

Of course, this is all assuming I don't have to parallel park. Never ask a person with bad depth perception to parallel park. Especially a Suburban.

Frodo will be staying home. He is my designated sane person.

I'm still dreading the invasion of the coming week... but, man, it's exciting!


Henry Cate said...

How are people in town taking McCain's proposal to cancel or postpone the debate?

TheTutor said...

The initial reaction was "What does that mean?" We have had moderate security and inconveniences for about a month now, but this past week has hosted much higher security and road closures, so I think most people were wondering what level of security we would have to maintain and for how long.

I think the second thing that went through people's minds is that when something this big is "postponed" that usually means it is canceled. A lot of businesses, organizations, and the local government put a lot of time and money into preparing for this debate expecting a financial gain for their efforts. Instead, it looked like our town's economy was going to suffer so that McCain could attend to the economies of large (reportedly predatory) companies which we as taxpayers were then going to have to pay for. That wasn't flying well here.

It looks like something is going to go on here, anyway, so people have rapidly relaxed.

The kids and I will be heading downtown for festivities tonight then onto campus tomorrow to attend some of Rock the Debate and see some of the debate on the jumbotrons outside on the campus. I hope to have pictures to share! Should be fun!

Henry Cate said...

Some where I read the suggestion that McCain send Sarah Palin to debate Obama. I would love to see that debate.