Murphy Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges When He Goes to the Convention

Friday, December 18, 2015

When I read an account yesterday morning of Boston City Councilor Stephen J. Murphy’s farewell speech it brought back the time in Springfield when Murphy and I went eyeball to eyeball and I blinked.

Saturday, June 1, 2001.  I was serving as a volunteer gatekeeper at the Democratic Party Issues Convention at the Springfield Civic Center.  A friend from Melrose, the one who’d asked me to volunteer, said it would provide opportunities to interact with party big shots and become better known.  I was into lobbying a little over three years at that point.
Around 8:00 o’clock that morning, I showed up at the appointed place in the civic center.  Along with about 15 other volunteers, I was given a big name badge on a lanyard to hang around my neck, a walkie-talkie and some cursory instructions. 

“You have to check the credentials of everyone – everyone -- who wants to come into the hall,” we were told.  “If they don’t have a name badge, they can’t come in.  No badge. No entry.  No exceptions.”  Our leader-instructor, also a volunteer, added, “Any problems, call headquarters.”
For most of the day, everything went smoothly.  Occasionally, I’d see somebody I knew and have a good chat.  Mainly it was boring.  And hard on the feet.  Interaction with big shots consisted of my hailing them enthusiastically by name and/or title (“Hello, Mr. President!”) and their barely nodding as they moved past me. 

Near the end of the day, as I was counting the minutes till I could pack it in and go home, a tall, large man approached my station, accompanied by at least two other, averaged-sized men.  Not one of them was wearing a Democratic Party Issues Convention name badge.  I had no idea who that mountain of a man might be.  The big guy noticed me eyeing him but did not break stride or speak to me.  I moved a step to my left to block their path.
To the big guy, I said, “Sir, you can’t go in without a badge.  If you have one, please let me see it.”

He was at least six inches taller than I and considerably broader abeam.
He looked sideways at one of the guys he was with and laughed.

“I’m Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy,” he announced.
As if on cue, Murphy & Co. immediately marched to the door of the convention floor.

I didn’t know what to do.  I had my radio in hand but had forgotten the instructions on how to operate the damn thing.  And what would I have said to “headquarters” if I had remembered how to use it?
“Help! I was just steamrollered by a large man claiming to be a Boston councilman.  He’s roaming the hall now with his buddies.  None are wearing badges. Repeat, none.  Quick!  Do something.”

How ridiculous would that have sounded?
I looked around.  No one in that crowded corridor seemed to have noticed what had happened between me and Murphy.  No other volunteer was in sight who might have also tried to halt him.  In less than 20 seconds, the badgeless wonders disappeared into the hall.  I imagined them in some choice seats, having a good laugh at my expense.  “Did you see the look at that guy’s face when we blew past him? Awesome move, Stevie.”

One’s moments of humiliation are never deep in the storage chests of memory.  Rather, they hover just below the surface.  They burst into the open whenever they will and taunt us.  And so have I been bothered from time to time by the way Murphy made short work of me on June 1, 2001.
The voters roughed up Stephen J. Murphy pretty good in November.  He is not a bad guy.  I wish him well, even as I try, not altogether successfully, to resist the urge to laugh at his newly acquired political irrelevance, as he laughed at mine that day long ago in Springfield.






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