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-“”1.1 The first police officer had made his way to the front lobby where the tables now created a makeshift barricade. in imposing fashion, he stood and threatened any walker who tried to loiter inside the building. The nervous energy amongst the staff intensified. Our adrenaline raced. The lines outside were dangerous. A mugging had occurred during one pay night; a recently released felon robbed a fellow walker at knifepoint. Hungry, tired, and desperate people risked those lines for $50 a day, but not the staff. Once we were ready inside secure and protectedthe police officer let people in from the freezing rain. The crowd surged like fans at a rock concert, pressing against the glass doors, trying to escape the harsh elements outside. A human turnstile, the officer admitted only one person at a time. Behind the barricade and armed guard, the staff stood and watched the thrusting crowd. Drenched, dark faces filed into the lobby area; each person holding a soggy green piece of paper signed by a field captain testifying to that day’s work.The quiet nervous energy of the staff was now drowned out by the voices of people jockeying to be the first in line. My fellow smoker suddenly transformed herself from a reflective dogooder into a militant actuary, scouring time sheets for discrepancies and questioning the legitimacy of identification cards. A former Clinton aide, recently arrived from New York, barked demands for those in line to behave. With every chastising word from the staffers behind the barricade, the volume and anger of the walkers heightened. Peering out over those directly in front of me, I saw the hundreds of illuminated brown and black faces beyond the glass doors. Rain pounded their exposed skin. Steam rose from their collective breath, creating a light layer of fog that hung above their heads. Once submitted, time sheets were handed to staffers, who ran to the secure office in the back. That’s where the field director sat with the small fortune recently retrieved from Mr. Sanchez’s bank. Thousands of dollars lay perched on his day-worn Gap Chin& He nonchalantly counted out the appropriate amount for each worker, then handed the money to the runner, who went back to the front to call the recipient’s name. Watching this, it occurred to me just how vulnerable we really were in that office. Simultaneously, I realized just how vulnerable the people outside really were, too. An hour passed; the tensions increased. A fight brewed between two women in line. The now quite brutish cop shouted for the women to hold it down. Once the women heard him, they turned from each other onto the common enemy: him. There I stood, lackadaisicallyoddly amusedwaiting for someone to pull a gun. But then in the chaos a stenchlike a sniffing saltawoke me from my now complacent daze. “Holy shit!” rang out from behind the barricade. As I turned around to investigate, the floor drains spewed sewage into the air in fierce jets like geysers. Out came piss, feces, mud, crickets, roaches, and a toad. Sludge cascaded from Under the bathroom doors straight towards us. There was nowhete to run. Sewage rushed over my boots, and I just stood there ashamed. After my time on the campaign, I felt I deserved it: the $100 million cesspool. But pay night went on as someone handed me a mop. And there I was againleft in the middle to clean up the shit created by an empty corporate shell. Kodi E. Sawin is a political media consultant. She served as Constituency Program Director on the Tony Sanchez for Governor campaign. 1/31/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31