I missed President Obama's first inauguration, in 2009. But I witnessed something else, that may have been even more profound.
I had appointments to keep that Tuesday morning, so I left the house right when Obama entered the portico. Cursing (and crying) I drove to the auto repair dealership, to drop off the old car to be repaired.
When I entered the office I saw that the gruff dude who works the counter was not at the counter, but was instead sitting out in the grimy waiting area, adjusting the bent clothes hanger on an ancient mini-TV, trying to get the inauguration in better. Hmmmm…..I would not have taken this guy to be a liberal, let alone a democrat, but here he was, ignoring the customers to see the President-Elect lose his hyphen.
He eventually regarded me and we completed our business. I went outside to the repair bays to retrieve my bicycle from the car. Now auto repair guys are overwhelming conservative and ALL of them listen to nothing but classic rock radio while they work. The station of choice today? NPR, broadcasting the inauguration.
I rode off. A mile down the road there was a lane closure as the telephone company did some digging in the slow lane. As I slowly rode past I heard the swearing-in from each and every repair truck down the line.
I stopped when the next light turned red and two cars pulled up beside me. A 4X4 truck with a gun rack behind the seats, and a shiny new Lexus. White guys behind the wheel of each, in identical poses: Heads cocked, staring at their car radios, listening to Obama’s speech.
I stopped at the grocery store. The checkout clerk was checking one-handed and staring at his iPhone with the other, watching the video feed. As I left I passed the employee lounge where the door was open and the room packed with employees. There were people of all ages there, a variety of ethnic backgrounds and a kaleidoscope of faiths. They were all completely silent and I heard wild cheering from an unseen TV. Many of the clerks and butchers and managers were openly crying.
I walked in to work and all my friends were huddled around one computer. I saw lots of waving flags on the screen. One co-worker glanced up. “You missed it.”
I smiled. “Did I?” and I went on to my office.