I never thought I’d find myself working the phones in the Barack Obama headquarters, especially on a night the president was set to give an important address to the nation about the financial crisis. But there I was, and I had little other option.
I had gone running that night, and as I was listening to Chinese lessons on my mp3 player and pounding the pavement, I somehow lost my key. This was stupid on a variety of levels. For one, it was completely avoidable. I could have left the key under the mat at my house. I could have tucked it inside the little key pocket in my brand new running shorts. Instead, I chose to hold it in my right hand, along with my mp3 player, both of them swinging by the pendulum of my arm as I jogged.
That’s not to say this type of stupidity is completely uncharacteristic of me. I’ve been known to have a clumsy, idiotic streak. Once in China, I padlocked myself inside a house that had no indoor plumbing. As you can imagine, without getting into detail, the consequences were less than pleasant.
With no key, phone, or wallet, it was almost like being stranded in the wild and left for survival, only with concrete and cars all around. Katy wasn’t due home for two more hours, so I decided that I’d retrace the mile and see if by chance I could see the key gleaming in the streetlights. By now the sun had dipped behind the earth’s curve, and darkness was falling fast.
I figured I couldn’t lose in this situation. If I found the key, I performed a miracle. If I made the loop again with no luck, I had at least gotten another mile’s worth of exercise, which was the point of this whole thing in the first place.
I’ve always felt sympathy for the homeless, but I found a new empathy for them that night. I was scouring the pavement for the tool to give me entry into a nice apartment where Katy and I joke - and I emphasize joke - that we enjoy the luxury life. They often make a similar search for throwaway food scraps to simply keep them alive.
You feel a lot of new emotions when you’re powerless, but that’s a blog post for another day. I’m sure if you’ve read this blog before, you’ve noticed that God often strips me of pride to teach me humility, only to watch me later go after the same self-sufficiency again.
I walked by the railroad tracks and listened to the harsh, metal-on-metal squeal of the MARTA train’s brakes as it pulled into a station near my house. I watched the sun fade completely, and streetlights became beacons to get me home.
Then it occurred to me that Katy might worry about me if I didn’t answer her nightly call as she left work. This realization came to me at the same time I had walked into a parking lot to check out an old tire shop that has been redeveloped into loft space for businesses. In the window of one of the two occupied spaces, a huge blue O with red and white stripes taking up its bottom half was painted on the glass.
People were sitting in a circle in a room plastered with posters in red, white and blue. A Barack Obama quote was written in cursive on the wall. I had found the Illinois senator’s Decatur campaign headquarters.
These folks are doing a fantastic job for their candidate. If you could empirically predict margin of victory by yard signs, Obama would be leading by something like a 98 percent in Decatur. The reason I knew the sign of the O stood for Obama is because I pass a homemade one nailed to a tree on my route to work. On that same street, I was recently following a car with an Obama bumper sticker written in Hebrew.
Despite my political differences, I needed a phone. I tapped on the glass, and a lady opened the door. I explained my situation.
“Only if you vote for Barack Obama,” she said with a wry smile.
She probably thought that was a safe bet in Decatur.
“I can’t guarantee that, but I hope you’ll let an enemy into your camp for a moment,” I said.
I made the call, and Katy was relieved. As I walked home, I thought this was a bit ironic: I had no change, and I went to Barack Obama. He won’t get my vote, but he gets my gratitude.