A Day in NYC for NDAA Protest

This is a story about my trip to NYC on Feb. 6 to support the fine folks who are suing the government over NDAA.

Up at 3:15 am to avoid the last minute rush to meet a 5:00 am bus in Hartford… Right off the bat, there’s the first problem. The anticipation of the trip kept me awake for hours so a 3:15 rising time followed a meager 2 hours of sleep.

Arriving at the bus station at 4:40 am I was immediately asked by a man standing in the vestibule of the station if I had money to give him for a cup of coffee. Tired, nervous about the trip and wondering if my phone battery was going to fail, I lifted my hands in that helpless gesture we all know and said I was sorry but I didn’t have anything to give him. After all, I’d need money for cabs, money for lunch with a friend after the court experience, money for who knows what. It wasn’t too long before the bus arrived and we were invited to board. We only had a few minutes before leaving. Goddess, thank you for poking me. I went back into the station, shared a few dollars with the man and said I hoped the coffee was hot and delicious. What was I thinking when I refused?

I grabbed a front row bus seat to see the road ahead for those few minutes I would be awake before trying to store up some energy for the day ahead. The call for people to come to the courthouse asked for various arrival times, all somewhere between 9:00 and 9:45. No promises were made that there would be space in the court room for everyone who showed up but we were all urged to come and stay outside if necessary to show our support. My plan definitely did not include standing outside. The bus was due in to Port Authority by 8:20. Okay – get a cab, go for a short drive, arrive at the courthouse in plenty of time to get a seat in the court room. It sounded like a perfectly good plan.

Traffic was wonderful until we actually got into the city. I’ll spare you the details. We DID NOT get to Port Authority at 8:20. It was more like 8:45. Okay – run outside, grab a cab, and get there on time. Another perfectly good plan. But… NO! When you leave Port Authority there is an orderly system for getting a cab. It’s called standing in line and waiting patiently as cabs come and go, picking up people in the order in which they’re standing in said line. It was a long line. And then I thought that I really didn’t know how long the ride would take and how long it would take to find a bathroom once inside the court so finding a bathroom now became my priority mission. To do that I had to get out of line. Bathroom found, time to get back in line. I was now farther back than I was when I originally went outside.

Ah, my cab. The driver asked me which way I wanted him to go. I had no idea, just like I had no idea I’d have to stand in an orderly line to get the cab! Well, the cab ride turned out to be a delightful part of my day. The driver asked where I was going and I said the courthouse. He asked if I worked there. I said no, that I was going to support the people suing our government over the NDAA. He asked what that was and when I started to explain, he reached over for a pen and paper and wrote it down so he wouldn’t forget. From there the conversation tackled our philosophies of life and shared visions for the future. My time in the cab was lovely. When we arrived at the courthouse I paid him and most sincerely wished him a wonderful life. I think he is a good person.

Arrival at the courthouse was at 9:40. Run up the steps, ask directions to the court room and find a seat. Yet another great plan. But NO! There were two lines as soon as I got inside, one to my left and one to my right. I moved toward the line on my left only to be told that the line on my right was a continuation of the line on the left with space left open in the middle for people who had immediate access into the building. The line moved slowly, like glaciers before global warming. I got to talk with some very interesting people, all there for the same reason. Turns out we were all in line headed for the security checkpoint – airport style and not nearly as fast. We all finally came to the conclusion that the pace was calculated to keep as many of us as possible out, driving us back outside the building after having lost our minds from being in line so long. We had to check cell phones and all electronics and in exchange got a very high tech identification tag with which to retrieve them. High tech as in a sticky note that someone wrote a number on with a pen that was running out of ink. Very impressive.

Having passed through the security station, we were directed to a room on the fifth floor. It was one of two overflow rooms used for those of us who refused to be turned away. There were only two things missing from this room. One was a video screen and the other was a satisfactory audio system. It was almost impossible to decipher sentences in their entirety but the room was very quiet and everyone tried as hard as we could to make some sense of what we were sort of hearing. For one second I thought about what a waste of time the trip was but that feeling was instantly replaced with the realization that I was part of a historical event that had the potential to make real change. No, I wasn’t in the court room. No, I wasn’t looking directly at the people involved. No, I couldn’t even make out all of what I had traveled to hear. But I was there, being counted along with hundreds of other people who believe that the NDAA is an abomination that must be challenged and defeated. I had taken a stand and shown up. I was with community. I was Occupying an idea, a courthouse, a social movement and a moment in history. On that day, I mattered. Early hours, a 6 hour round trip bus ride, an expensive cab ride… all for the experience of less than an hour in an overflow room.

My day ended after lunch with a friend, a subway ride back to Port Authority and the bus ride home. It was a good day. I’m so looking forward to the next chance to stand with good people for a just cause.