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Joe Biden, Parking Lots, and Cook Out Milkshakes – A Sunday in Durham

Growing up in a small town in Western North Carolina, it was not common for national-level politicians to visit. So when I got wind that Presidential Candidate Joe Biden would be in Durham on Sunday, October 18th, my paper due at 9 pm was no longer the most important event in my planner on Sunday. 

While the Biden-Harris event was an invitation-only, drive-in rally, I still felt the need to scope out the sites, knowing Vice President Biden was only miles from my dorm room on campus. So a few friends piled into a car, and we began our adventure to find Joe Biden. We were driving down the highway towards the event when suddenly traffic stalled to a dead stop. At this moment, we were incredibly frustrated. We thought we would be stuck in traffic for hours and miss the possibility of seeing evidence of the Biden event. Our negativity was incredibly unnecessary. As we sat completely still on the highway, we began to hear and see numerous police vehicles barreling towards us on the on-ramp. At this moment, we realized we were not stopped for a fender-bender but a motorcade. We rolled the windows down to record a crystal clear shot of *fingers crossed* our next president (through high-intensity window tint, of course). With my phone prepped, I watched in awe as Joe Biden’s motorcade drove right past. Never could I have imagined being so close (albeit in 2 different cars on a heavily trafficked highway) to the former Vice President. 

We then followed the motorcade (now that is another sentence I never imagined saying) to the high school where the event took place. Knowing we would not be allowed in the event, we parked along a neighborhood road and ran like schoolchildren to recess to a large parking lot. In this open parking lot, where supporters were allowed to gather (distanced and masked), we could not see Biden or any other speakers. Still, we could see the crane holding up screens for those invited and could hear echoes of the speeches over the sound system and the chorus of car horns supporting the former Vice President. From our spot in the high school parking lot, we did not hear Joe Biden directly, but instead a chorus of unsynced live streams of the event from supporters cell phones. This arrangement brought more joy to my heart than anything remotely political in the past four years. Seeing how many people were willing to stand in the sun in an empty parking lot and watch a live stream on YouTube simply because a presidential candidate was within the local vicinity gave me optimistic hope for the outcome of the election. 

Now, after the formal event is where things got sweet. Well, after the event AND after standing outside for another few hours waiting for the Biden motorcade to leave. After driving across Durham and standing in an empty parking lot, my friends and I felt we had to wait for Biden’s motorcade to leave. So we, like the good Democrats and students we were, sat on the side of a small Durham road for about two hours, discussing our workload when we returned to our dorms, but ultimately decided to wait for Biden. After about two hours, we watched his motorcade drive off, propelled by cheers of local Biden supporters. On our way home, we decided to make a quick stop at Cook Out. As a North Carolina native, it felt like the appropriate time to introduce my Wisconsian and Louisianan friends to the North Carolina treasure that is Cook Out. As it turns out, the Pennsylvania native had the same desire. As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw on Twitter a video of Joe Biden and his granddaughter, Finnegan, at that exact Cook Out ordering a chocolate and a vanilla milkshake. Unable to contain our excitement, we looked all around the parking lot for Biden, in hopes we could catch a glimpse of the former Vice President. Unfortunately, it seemed as if we were just minutes behind Biden. We did end up with an extra milkshake, which I like to believe was a gift from Joe Biden. 

I hope in a post-COVID world, there will be a day where I can actually meet Joe Biden, but for now, I will accept watching a live stream in a parking lot and missing him by minutes at Cook Out. 

Hello! I am a freshman at Duke from Hendersonville, NC!
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