I don't know how to start this post. I probably won't know how to finish it either. But I have to start somewhere.
The Republican National Convention was in Tampa this year. We've known for a while we would be hosting some fundraisers around the event for one of the Foundations I work for. I'd been told I could help out for our Tuesday event. I'd drive down Monday, be there for the event on Tuesday, then drive home on Wednesday.
Then at the end of July, Governor Bush was asked to speak at the RNC. The schedule would be much busier now. Governor would have interviews, meetings, speeches, fundraisers, and all other sorts of events.
I was still planning to be there Monday-Wednesday.
Then Brandi, our events coordinator, said they needed someone to drive Governor's SUV to Tampa (from Tallahassee) on Saturday morning. Since I was already planning to go, I was the lucky winner. The other thing was this....Whoever drove it down- would have to drive it BACK to Tallahassee- after the RNC was over. Which means I went from only being in Tampa 1 1/2 days- to the FULL week.
I started to get excited.....until I found out there would be no credentials for me to get anywhere near the convention. So I made plans and prepared to be in Tampa, but just stay in the hotel and work....Then watch the speeches on TV with the rest of the world.
Saturday morning, I drove to Tampa at 6am, arrived at 9:30am, then met up with the rest of Governor's team as they were about to do the 'run through' of the week. We needed to pass the SUV off to the driver, along with driving to each of his locations to make sure we knew where we were going...making sure roads were open, etc., so that when Governor got to town, we'd be familiar with everything. I asked if I could go along for the ride and they said sure. After we got back to the hotel (around 7pm) we all had some work to do- and everyone parted ways. Because I was in town earlier than expected, Jaryn let me stay in her hotel room with her as she had a suite. We were working from the hotel and decided around 8:30 we should grab dinner. Josh was also staying at our same hotel so the three of us loaded up and headed over for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. It was late. I was tired. You all know how I am when that combo is in play. Needless to say, we had a grand 'ole time.
Sunday morning, Jaryn and I had a few errands to run and decided we should probably make a Publix run as Hurricane Isaac was heading our direction. We got a few things, as well as coffee, then headed back to the hotel.
Our agenda for Sunday was to get credentials for Governor and his team. Credentials became a four letter word to us. We would drive to specified locations, wait for them to arrive, be told we needed to find someone else- so on and so forth. Mind you, driving around wasn't easy on it's own. Roads were shut down. Police were everywhere. Secret service was everywhere. Trying to get the credentials was CUH-Razy. It became a full-time job. At 11pm, we were still making calls and trying to get a hold of the right people. Finally- we got what we needed. Well. Mostly. We came back to the hotel- put all the lanyards together- and headed down to the hotel bar where we ran into Governor Jan Brewer and had a 'special' talk with our 'special' bartender.
We'd also learned Monday night's events would be cancelled due to the storm which meant the schedule was changing once again. Jaryn stayed busy the ENTIRE time working, re-working- and re-working AGAIN Governor's schedule and speaking arrangements. (side note: the storm never came)
Again. All this time, I knew I wouldn't be able to attend the speeches.
So, Josh is new to the foundation and works in our DC offices. His previous job left him with LOTS of connections to people at the RNC. The two of us were about to make our final credential run and as we were leaving the hotel, I said "I should probably stop and go to the bathroom.....if there is a restroom in the hotel lobby, I'll stop. But if not- no worries. I can wait until we get to the next hotel."
There was no restroom in the lobby.
We get in the car and are headed to the Marriott hotel where Governor Romney was staying. Traffic was SHUT DOWN. The roads we'd previously taken were closed. We couldn't get anywhere. And I began to panic. I wasn't joking when I said I had to go to the restroom.
I look at Josh (whom I'd only met once before) as he is driving and I say "Josh. I can't wait. I have to go to the bathroom." I'm preparing myself for the 'most embarrassing moment' of my life to take place. Really. I'm almost in tears. I decide right then and there- I will NOT move to DC because Josh works in DC. And I will never be able to face him again after what was about to happen. I told him as much. I even said "and if you come to the Tallahassee office....I will wear sunglasses and not ever look you in the eyes." Honestly, he was so great about the situation and didn't make light. He went super slow over the speed bumps. What should have been a 15 minute drive turned into a 45 minute drive. This. Was. Not. Good.
We finally arrive at the hotel. I RUN to the bathroom. The 'awkward' run. You all know it. Where you're trying to move fast without moving your legs.
God was so merciful to me, y'all. I know this is NOT the story you were anticipating reading about- but hey. it was part of my Monday. After life looked brighter, I met Josh in the lobby and we headed to find our credentials. Starbucks was in the lobby and of course we got coffee. We knew we were going to have to wait a bit. Lucky for us- as we were waiting- Governor Chris Christie starts walking through. Josh said "You want your picture with him!?" And of course I did- but I didn't want to be 'one of those people!" AND! I didn't know if that was even appropriate for where we were, etc. Josh said "You have to! You'll be so mad at yourself if you don't! I'll take the picture!" And since Josh was familiar with these sorts of events/people/etc. I figured he would have told me if it were not appropriate. So I put on my assertive pants and went for it. He was very kind and allowed me the picture!!! At this point- I'm SHAKING. I was so nervous- and yet after all the emotions I'd just been through (with the restroom story- etc) I was thinking to myself "HOW DID I GET HERE!!!!"
After we got credentials, it was almost time for our 3pm walk-through at the Straz Performing Arts Center. We were to have an event there the next day and had an appointment to meet with the people in charge. We also knew we needed lunch and headed over to the only thing that was open: the Howard Johnson hotel.....which affectionately is now known to me as the "HoJo." (I'd never heard it called that before....you?)
We eat lunch then go to the walk-through. Around this time, Jaryn text and said we had dinner plans with someone from Good Morning America. I knew I needed a dress. A trip to the mall was in order. We get back to hotel- everyone is in different places- and I have a bit of time to get a dress and be back in time for dinner at 9pm.
While I'm at the mall, Jaryn is with the Governor at the forum where he's running through his speech with several of the RNC people. They also told him he couldn't wear the white shirt he had been planning on. So I get a text from Jaryn saying "are you still at the mall!?! Gov needs a shirt."
I thought he'd spilt something and needed a shirt for tonight. I asked her "do you need it right now?" She said "No, it's for when he speaks on Thursday."
WHAT THE WHAT?!?!
I've never purchased a dress shirt before. Ok, let me take that back. Once before- for my dad. And he wore it like once. So I stick to buying ties.
Jaryn sends me the measurements and I'm looking around the mall. Which, btw, was probably one of the worst malls to have been in. My options were Sears, Macy's, JCPenny, and Saks.
I started at Macy's and went to the poor kid at the desk and said "Help!" Turns out, they didn't have the color we needed in the right size. So my next option was JC Penny or Sears. I went in, saw that their shirts were $15 and I just couldn't. I couldn't allow myself to do that. He was going to be on NATIONAL TELEVISION, people! I run all over the mall looking and trying to find what I needed when finally I called a my co-worker, Erin, who said "go to another mall!" She gave me directions to a better mall and told me where to go.
I go in, ask for the shirt I needed, and the guy comes out with 3 options. One of which he said was 'button down." Well, I thought all mens dress shirts were button down. But no. Evidently that term is used for the collar. I didn't know if that would be ok or not and he said "What event is the shirt for?" I told him "It's for a speaker at the RNC." He said very quickly "no button down." So we find the right shirt, I make the purchase, then head back to my hotel. WHEW. Who knew finding a shirt would have so many decisions? Patterns were wrong, buttons were ugly, buttons were in the wrong place, neck sizes, arm length....Geeeez! I get back, change into my new dress, and take a breather before getting a text that says "Hey Minda- Crazy question. Can you pick up George Stephanopoulos's producer at the Westin? She is going to meet us for dinner."
Um. Let's back track on this day. Crazy horrifying almost bathroom incident. Meet Gov. Chris Christie. Buying Jeb Bush a shirt to wear on national television. Then picking up this producer.
Of course I say yes. I get her, we drive to Maggianos where we meet up with Josh and Jaryn. Producer treats us to dinner, we get her back to her hotel, and we head back to ours and go to bed at 2am.
Tuesday is a big day. We have our movie premier, a fundraiser, then the first night of the RNC.
The premier was great, the fundraiser went swimmingly, and as I was heading back to the hotel, Josh says "I've got credentials for you."
WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?! I get to go. I wasn't anticipating that. I get home, change really quickly- and jump in the car and head to the forum.
Josh and I arrive and remember how I told you he knows all sorts of people? Well, he knew enough to get us into one of the suites. Yes. Not only was I at the RNC, I was sitting in the suite with my chin hanging open. Right below us was Megyn Kelly and the FOX news team. After being there for a little bit- Josh is talking to his people, comes over and says "Let's go." "Let's go" meant "Hey, we're going down to the floor with all the delegates." I keep looking over my shoulder wondering when someone was going to realize i was NOT in the right place and I did NOT belong!!! We get down and Josh says "So what do you want to do!?!?"
What do I want to do!?!?! I have NO idea. I have no idea what I'm allowed to do. I'm not sure what is appropriate!!! And I tell him as much.
He says "Well you should get a picture with the Texas delegates and sign in the background."
Then he says "Want to get closer to the stage?"
"Want to get even CLOSER?
Seriously. I was GIDDY.
We went back up to the suite and watched the remainder of the speeches from there. We headed back to the hotel after the night was over and met up with Jaryn and John. Jaryn and I put our pj's on and headed down to the lobby where the four of us sat and talked for a couple hours. And when I say 'talked' I really mean laughed. It probably was because the conversation started with Josh saying "so did Minda tell you about her 'situation' today?"
Tuesday was a MAJOR highlight. Drinks and conversation was exactly what we needed. Went to bed at 3am.
Wednesday the day is spent running around from place to place, running errands, working, and making sure everyone is at the right place at the right time. Again, I get a text from Josh that night around 6:30 saying "You have a credential. You in?"
Went and again sat in the suite. Josh then let us know he had VIP tickets to go see Kid Rock. At this point, I knew I was going to have an early morning (4:30am wake up time) and knew I wouldn't get back from the concert til after 3am. So I passed on the concert and went home to bed. Little did I know, when I woke up Thursday morning to go to the Good Morning America taping, I found out I didn't have the right credential for this particular event. I almost...wait. Who am I kidding. I DID start crying. I was SOOOOOOO frustrated. Not with anyone in particular, but all week had been looking forward to attending the Good Morning America interview. Whomp waaaaah. So I missed out on Kid Rock VIP tickets. I slept 4 hours. And I didn't get to go. I ended up working from the hotel that morning and getting my work inbox cleaned out a little bit. The next even I had was at 2 and got dressed and ready to go. It was the Bloomberg Link event where there would be a panel of speakers to talk about education. The list was House Majority leader, Eric Cantor, Margaret Spellings who served as the Secretary of Education under George W., Condoleezza Rice, and Jeb Bush.
Can we say WHOA. As the moderator put it- they were the "Oceans Eleven" of education. An incredible event and LOTS of good tweeting material. :-)
At the event, Jaryn came up to me and said "I have a present for you!!" She knew how bummed I'd been that morning to not be able to to attend GMA. My 'present' was the fact that she had secured a credential for the Thursday night RNC speeches. AKA- Jeb Bush. Mitt Romney.
What the what?!?!?!? AMAZING. (in other news- anyone tired of me saying "what the what?!!")
After the Bloomberg event, we went back to hotel, regrouped- and took the bus into the convention. This time, Josh and I had our executive director with us, Patricia. This woman was the one who TRULY deserved the red carpet/royal treatment that I'd been a recipient of all week. We got her seated in the suite when it was announced that Governor Chris Christie was on his way to our suite and would be sitting with us. Um. yes.
So Jeb Bush is speaking. I'm in a suite. Governor Chris Christie is right there. And I'm shaking my head.
After Gov. Bush spoke (and did an INCREDIBLE job) he was on his way back to Miami, Patricia headed back to the hotel, and Jaryn, Patrick, Josh, and myself headed up to the rafters to listen to Clint Eastwood, Marco Rubio, and Mitt Romney.
We clapped, we cheered, we drank, and we were merry :-)
It's 11pm at this point and Jaryn has a 7:30am flight out of Orlando the next morning. Patrick wanted to go to bed. And Josh had tickets to go see JOURNEY.
So Josh and I trek over to Liberty Plaza, walk in, and got to watch Journey perform.
I can't even explain to you the emotions that were taking place in my body. They started off with "Any way you want it- that's the way you need it -any way you want it!"
We got super close to the stage, had crazy people around us, watched as some girl played the whole "i just met you but here's my number' thing, and all in all- had a FANTASTIC time singing and listening to Journey play all our favorites. My phone died so I wasn't able to get any video or very many pictures, but Josh has those and I'll post once I get them!!! :-)
We got home around 3:30am. Woke up Friday, checked out of the hotel and went to hang out with my co-worker, Erin, at her parent's place. Laying out by the pool, drinking iced coffee, I was PINCHING myself. Whose life was I living?!?!?
About 2 hours later, I see a tweet come through that my Gateway friends from Dallas had JUST landed in Tampa!!!! I was able to go have lunch with them and hug some people that I'd not seen in a year.
I said to several people "I feel like this week has been the PERFECT example of God's promise to us of 'exceedingly, abundantly, more than we can ask or see."
So. #RNC2012 is in the books and I experienced it to the fullest.
How's that for a blog post?
I seriously doubt any of you made it through the whole thing, but either way, it's written out for me to remember and that's most important.