I don’t live under a rock, I truly don’t. Yet somehow I was not aware that there was this big march in Philadelphia today. Ok, so it is “Not My March”. True. Maybe I was subconsciously editing out the news of this event. My bad. I knew of the DC Women’s March but I guess Philadelphia news did not snag my attention. Consequently, when I dropped off my 14 year old for his volunteer work at the Academy of Natural Sciences on the Parkway this morning, I was confronted by closed streets, waves of women wearing oddly shaped pink hats, and homemade anti-Trump signs which were, mercifully, mostly unreadable.
This is not the point, I know, but I have to get it off my chest first. The event was frightfully inconvenient. I had to cancel a date with my college student daughter as the streets were largely unnavigable - tremendously disappointing. I had to figure out a way to still visit my Alzheimer-plagued mother who lives in northwest Philadelphia – an unwelcomed burden. And, I was slowly realizing that I would have no way to pick-up my 14 year old once I dropped him off, as the streets were beginning to overflow with marchers and the police were widening the shut-down area. In short, it was a nightmare and I was trapped in it. The fact that I was not simpatico with the crowd - yet could not escape it - surely added to my discontent.
I pulled over (in a no parking zone, of course, until chased by police 10 minutes later) and tried to relax. My young teen jumped out of the car, a cell phone and hand-drawn map balled up in his pocket, to make his way to his job. I stayed put, waiting for his “all good” text. I looked at all the people who were walking around holding signs, objecting to one thing or another about Trump. I did not hear hate and I did not see hate. I just saw friendly folks in a friendly atmosphere coming together to be with each other – to commiserate with like-minded folks – and to reinforce their objections to our new president. Nothing wrong with this, I thought. I rather like that we have the freedom to do this. I might not agree with their purpose but I am glad that these folks have the liberty and privilege to speak their minds. It is a good thing, not a bad thing. This made me feel better.
Then I began to wonder how the women who were marching felt about Bill Clinton when he sullied the office of the President of the US with his outrageous behavior (and then lied about it under oath). Were there any women’s marches then? I could not recall, but I doubted it. I also thought back on some of the awful behavior of Jack Kennedy, a presidency which was pre-internet of course, so his philandering was not given much air-time. Like many of our presidents, he was a prodigious womanizer and chauvinist, yet I do not think his shenanigans resulted in so much fuss. For someone who is forever looking for patterns to help makes sense of the world, I was at a loss here. Oh, well. I guess living in the information age and the misinformation age has its drawbacks. Today, no one in the limelight gets to escape bad behavior, true or imagined. Sometimes there will be protests, other times there will not. That was the best I could do with this set of facts.
I then took a minute to google the pink hat thing. I learned that it was somehow symbolic of that female body part which women strenuously object to being defined by. So why were they sporting hats evocative of this? I was marveling over this strange contradiction when I was asked firmly but politely by an officer to move my car. My son had texted that he found his way through the blocks of pink hats to make it to his volunteer job and I had fortified myself with more black coffee from the thermos I’d packed, so I headed into the fray of vehicles being diverted through multiple detours.
It was more harrowing when I returned to pick up the young teen later in the day, probably due to the empty thermos and the fact that I had to park on South Street and walk 12 blocks to retrieve him. Even on a good day, the metered spots on the streets of Philadelphia conspire against visitors, block by block. Some only take quarters. Some only take PPA cards. Some only take credit cards at a kiosk but will fail to connect so you must give up that perfect spot or get a ticket. Some streets are not metered at all but the signs threaten towing while making vague reference to mysterious permits. The only break I got today was no parking ticket! Despite being 15 minutes late returning to my expired meter, no ticket. I skedaddled back to New Jersey, and never thought I’d say this, but I was glad to be doing it.
Frankly, I am pleased that the protestors had a venue to voice their concerns. I am also glad that (unlike DC’s) it was peaceful. Although I felt like a stranger in a strange land, at least I did not have to pay the Philadelphia Parking Authority for my front row seat at this event.
If ever I am moved to be a card-carrying protestor of one type or another, it is good to know that there are so many agencies willing to facilitate that possibility. Despite my scheduling disappointments today, despite my confusion and my inconvenience, at the end of it all, I am glad for those who had the freedom to come together to object. I don’t have to be on that team or understand it to be happy for it.