Leaving on a Campaign

I snuck out before my friends woke up. My training for the campaign had just finished and I was about to leave from Raleigh to Charlotte, North Carolina. Standing on my friend’s porch I paused to take a picture of my car in the early morning sunlight.

The car was not as impressive as the moment would suggest. A Nissan hatchback of some sort. What more could you expect from a rental? I had only been back in the country for around five months. This would be my first proper job since leaving Japan so a car of my own wasn’t something I could manage.

Of course, renting a car for two and a half months isn’t exactly cheap but I’m fortunate to have a patron.

I woke up early because it’s a long drive from the capital to the Queen city. I never appreciated how vast my home state truly was until this experience. I drove a lot in Charlotte, which has some of the craziest roads in the state. Five lane highways suddenly split off into three and two. You might be forgiven for not noticing the change because one of those lanes was inevitably an on ramp as well.

Worst drivers too, probably.

I was fortunate during my time on the campaign to see a large part of the city. We also got to have a field trip into the surrounding areas closer to the end, but that’s a story for another day. All told, I put in about 3000 miles over two months. Not bad considering I spent most of my days in an old accounting office glued to a phone.

I don’t remember what I listened to on the long stretch of I-40 between my college home and my new temporary life in Charlotte. Either the Hamilton cast recording, which I had been listening to non-stop in those days, or the audiobook version of Team of Rivals, the classic Lincoln biography. I have a bit of a thing for early American history.

You’re required to be a bit of a nerd if you want to work in politics, I think.

Interstate 40 is an interesting animal. It has long been a part of my life as it was the best way to get from my home town to where I went to school. For the first 24 years of my life I never moved more than 30 minutes away from that stretch of concrete. During that whole time, it’s been under perpetual construction. People from the area know what I’m talking about.

Some of my co-workers were shocked to hear I had never been to Charlotte either in that time. I moved half a world away only to wind up just off that highway once again.

Eventually, I reached Charlotte and made my way to my first voter registration drive. Straight off the highway right to work. I should have expected no less. The drive was at a Revolutionary War re-enactment of all places. This being North Carolina, my first guess would be Civil War as the re-enactors conflict of choice. I couldn’t go in and check it out, though. For one I was on duty. For another they required tickets.

This was when I first met some of the people that would become my fellow organizers. A special bond. People who would go from strangers to dear friends over a span of mere weeks. I knew I was in good company when one of them wore a shirt with a British flag on it to a Revolutionary War event. Cheeky to say the least.

That evening I got my first taste of call time. We did calls during training but there’s no substitute for the real thing. For some reason, I remember the lights being dimmer than they would be for the rest of the campaign. Perhaps my brain wants to remember that time more intimately. Maybe it was because a light was burnt out.

Either are equally possible.