The local Republican faithful, an estimated 12,000 of them, had been standing for hours inside and outside of a hangar at the not-too-busy Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (proud motto: "Still Meeting the Air Travel Demands of 1952").
Then, at precisely 12:30 p.m., a private corporate plane shot along the tarmac about 200 feet from the gathering of People Wearing Yesterday's Fashions. It was a Cessna Citation Bravo with a pair of Pratt and Whitney 530A engines high bypass, twin-spool engines with a takeoff thrust rating of 2,887 pounds, for you aviation buffs. Suddenly the air was filled with a head-splitting, way-beyond-irritating, please-God-make-it-stop, high-pitched, shrill, screeching, horrible whining noise.
Frankly, I had no idea Sarah Palin's voice was that loud.
I'm just kidding, of course. Everybody loves Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee who likes to call herself "a pit bull with lipstick" a phrase that (a) tells you just how tough she is; and (b) is also the No. 1 answer among Alaskan high school boys when asked who they took to the prom.
I am just kidding again. For the 32nd consecutive year, nearly 70 percent of Alaskan high school boys answered: "A caribou. And she told me she was 18."
(Related footnote: Because it is insensitive and Palin herself would never stoop to lowbrow tactics such as insulting or mocking anyone, we will refrain from making any jokes whatsoever about anyone's pregnant teenage daughter. This would include jokes with the punch line: "Geez, I didn't even know dogsleds had a backseat.")
Seriously, Palin, as you know, was at our airport for the big Republican rally on Sept. 6. Appearing with her was GOP presidential nominee John McCain, although I didn't have a very good view and it's possible it was Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Col. Harland Sanders. (Here you might point out that KFC's Col. Sanders died 28 years ago. To which I would say, "Yes, I know.")
It was a great rally and kicked off the final two months of McCain's campaign. McCain sought the office previously, as you know, losing a close election when Martin Van Buren carried Ohio.
The day began with a massive procession of staunch Republicans, first along Interstate 25 and then east on the Martin Luther King Jr. bypass. At times, traffic just inched along. Among those caught in the jam, 15 percent of the Republicans said they were "somewhat upset," 10 percent said they were "quite upset" and 75 percent said, "Martin Luther who?" That group included McCain, who in the past has opposed the idea of a Martin Luther King holiday.
Then it was time for most of the people to stand for 3 hours in the scorching sun, waiting for McCain, his wife Cindy and Palin. Security workers had confiscated all bottles of water as people entered the hangar area, and organizers provided little or no water once the throng was in place.
On a more positive note, nothing shortens the porta-potty lines quite like dehydrating the people until they swallow their own tongues.
Eventually, Palin and McCain appeared. Palin, who spent a semester at Hawaii Pacific College, a few more at North Idaho College and the University of Idaho and was also a student at Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna College ("Gimme an M, gimme an A ... gimme a T ... gimme, oh, never mind ...") kicked things off in her usual manner: mocking Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
Obama, by way of comparison, has an undergraduate degree from Columbia and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in part because of his intellect and powerful ambition but mostly because when he applied, Matanuska-Susitna College was out of dorm space.
After 12 minutes, Palin was done talking and left the podium. In mid-air. On a bike. With Toto in her basket.
Then McCain spoke.
"I'm giving an advance warning to the old, big-spending Washington crowd that change is coming," barked the man who has been part of Washington, in the U.S. House or Senate, since 1982.
And then, some four minutes into his talk, a fascinating thing happened.
People who'd waited for hours apparently to see and hear him began to leave.
A dozen at first, and then a hundred, and soon as many as a thousand crowded toward the lone narrow exit in an adjacent hangar. They scurried toward their cars as McCain's voice ("We'll drill new wells and we'll drill them now and we'll drill offshore ...") echoed from the giant speakers. Nobody else in the media, much closer to the stage, reported anything about it.
Most of the escapees said they didn't want to get stuck again in traffic. Especially on that Martin Scorsese Martin Short Rodney Luther King highway thing.
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