Political Campaign Buttons: Wear with Care
by Billie Kelpin
Another Presidential election year is upon us, and you can bet I’m going to do everything I can to avoid the pitfalls from my last election year experience.
This is how it went down. I was standing in line at a post office in Pittsburgh when a woman in front of me was wearing a button supporting … well, let’s just say supporting the same candidate for President who I was supporting. (I don’t want any trouble here. I just want to write an essay.) So I asked this woman where she here button, and she proceeded to simply hand me an identical button from her purse. She wouldn’t accept payment, so I thanked her and put it on.
I then heard the gentleman behind me say audibly to his companion, “I’d be ashamed to wear that button,” and suddenly I was ashamed – not for my candidate, mind you, but for not putting a curling iron to my hair before schlepping off to the Post Office. With that one comment from that one gentleman, I realized that someone was actually looking at me, and suddenly everything I was wearing and everything I did took on new meaning. In an instant I became, if only in my own mind, the representative for my candidate’s entire campaign. As I walked up to the counter, leaving the label for the overnight letter on the table behind me, I cursed myself. I felt that the whole line was now collectively perceiving me as selfish because I was inconveniencing them with my forgetfulness. I was certain that Mr. I’d-be-ashamed-to-wear-that-button and the others in that silent line were thinking that I was inconsiderate and/or ditsy, ergo- all members of my party are inconsiderate and/or ditsy.
And. of course, as fate would have it, the package needed to be delivered overnight by express delivery. ("Another flaw," I was sure they’d be thinking – "an indication of poor planning on her part".) I reassured myself that my candidate at least, had just announced to the country that if elected, he indeed had a plan .
With a quick and sheepish “sorry” intended for the line behind me, I turned and snapped up the forgotten form from the table behind me and was back at the counter in a flash, all labeled up and ready to go. The postal clerk, ever-stoic, (I think they're trained that way) started adding up my failures at efficiency and my flaws of fiscal irresponsibility. I fumbled to get my credit card out of my purse, which, I was suddenly aware, could have been condemned for breaking some city sanitation ordinance had the proper authorities been present. (I carefully blocked any view of the purse with my body)
As I felt my face turn a color probably close to magenta for these new sins of unnecessary credit card usage and deplorable purse hygiene, I suddenly became aware that the cuffs of my pants were covering the heels of my shoes I was wearing! I found it strange that I had never noticed how long these particular slacks were before, and now, by wearing them to the post office, I was telling the world that supporters of my candidate are lazy individuals who don’t take time to even shorten their clothes.
As I finished up the transaction, I was trying to think of an exit strategy out of this whole stinkin’ mess. I decided I would walk, head down and as unobtrusively as possible, out the door which led me in – the door which might go down in history as the cause of the demise of my favorite political party.
However, as I slung the strap of my purse over the spaghetti sauce stain on my jacket, I couldn’t resist the urge to redeem myself - and my candidate’s campaign. Surely if I wasn’t able to impress the line behind me with my appearance, I could at least try to wow them now with my poise and graciousness. So, I turned back and I walked up to the woman who had given me the button. In my loveliest, most kindly and consciously audible voice, I asked, “Are you sure I can’t pay you for the button and reached into my purse?”
“Don’t be silly, dear,” she responded, “my pleasure.”
Yes, We did it! She and I were a team! We had represented the group that represented us with dignity and grace. I walked out of the Pittsburgh post office feeling vindicated and hopeful: after all, there could have been one swing voter in there who would now vote for our guy.
I got into my little white Toyota with the Kerry-Edwards sticker on the back bumper, satisfied with the whole encounter at USPS. Still feeling the power of the button and now the added responsibility of my bumper sticker, I drove very carefully out of the parking lot and onto the street. Before approaching the first stoplight, I diligently put on my blinker well before the intersection. As I waited at the light, I lifted my dog Scooter off my lap high enough into the air to be seen by the people behind me who might be looking into my back window. I then and ceremoniously put him on the passenger side. I resisted the temptation to take my cell phone out of the charger even though I wanted to make a call. As the light turned green, I entered the intersection, waiting to cautiously turn left, when suddenly, the guy behind me beeped for me to hurry up. In an instant, I could feel all the emotion from the last half hour surge forth and start to rise in my middle finger. I was just about to raise that finger to the rear view mirror when it struck me, “My God, what am I doing? I asked myself. I have a button on my shirt and a sticker on my bumper!” In an instant, I lowered my finger, smiled apologetically into the mirror and quickly turned.
I never took the button off my jacket until the election was over that fall, but to tell you the truth, in spite of the outcome, I was just grateful when that darn campaign was over; it was just way too much pressure. And now it has started all over again. But thank goodness this year my purse is a bit cleaner and I found someone who does my hair really nice, now if I could just find a needle and thread to shorten my new slacks.