The neurotic’s guide to protest marches

At Saturday’s Women’s March in Midtown Manhattan one protester’s sign really said it all: “So bad, even introverts are here.” It was an otherwise unvoiced sentiment I knew many of us were feeling.

When a friend and I first learned hundreds of thousands of women would be marching in the name of human rights we could not #Resist.  Although I curse leaving the house, even on normal days, I decided to brave the crowds and loud noises to participate in the New York City protest. Still my desire to show the world that women’s rights are human rights, did nothing to abate my neuroses. So I got prepared. Here is my guide to protesting on the edge of nervous breakdown.

1) Sign up virtually and start to freak out: I registered on the NYC Women’s March site and as the number of registrants grew each day from 20,000 to 50,000 so did my anxiety. I’d check back frequently reporting back to my friend, Stacey who was accompanying me.

2) Prepare for calls of nature: Stacey and I literally went back and forth for hours trying to detail all worst case scenarios that could arise. Forget the normal ones like acts of terrorism, violence, arrests or even bad weather. I was far more concerned with having a bathroom disaster — I have a bladder disease that can make finding a bathroom quickly necessary. It makes me have to go frequently and urgently, somewhat like the ladies Trump allegedly invites into his hotel rooms. I would prefer not to get arrested for public urination at this stage in my life and I wasn’t the only one worried. Prior to the march, I was sent a tip sheet that implored women not to wear tampons. If arrested they may not have the chance to change them, nor would port-a-potties be readily available.

I meticulously mapped out all New York Sports Club’s (I am a member so I have access to bathrooms) locations on the NYC march route and jotted them down on a post-it which i carried around on the day like a security blanket.

3) Pack supplies: Neurotic people don’t tend to travel light. And I reasoned I’d need to bring along some serious supplies for this pilgrimage to Trump Tower. I needed a portable phone charger, baby wipes (see port-a-potty mention above), hand sanitizer (natch), lipgloss (selfies!), water, wallet, and foodstuff. What if we got hungry along the way? Even if there was somehow access to a bodega mid-march, what if they had nothing gluten-free or not laden with sugar and preservatives? I highly doubted there would be fruit salesman on the route (although a stellar idea).

4) Choose your gear with (obsessive) care: Once I had my bag packed, Stacey pointed out that the DC march info mentioned backpacks were prohibited. I quickly scanned the NYC site info, but what I read was conflicting. The Facebook thread about this topic first said backpacks were allowed (but subject to random inspections), then later someone suggested only transparent ones were permitted. The day prior to the event another note said only small handbags like crossbody or fanny packs, but considering the march wasn’t being held in the 1980s I’m unsure where’d I’d have even found one. Finally Stacey read that backpacks would in fact be a-ok. I decided to do what any neurotic would do and I put a bag in my bag. I took an unwieldy see-through tote and stuffed it in my already expansive knapsack, just in case, redundancy be damned. I pointed out to Stacey that at this point, anything that could hold a Xanax or two was acceptable to me.

5) Dress appropriately: Thankfully the weather was predicted to be a balmy 55 degrees. This made outfit planning relatively easy. Layers, comfortable shoes, and dark colors seemed appropriate. Then a crisis hit! Neither of us knew how to knit and this late in the game we wouldn’t have time to figure out how to make a pink-eared hat, which had become an iconic symbol for the rally. I searched on Ebay to no avail and while Etsy had some listed all would arrive after the event. I posted a query on Facebook and someone suggested calling local knitting stores. From doing so I learned very quickly that NYC knitters (at least the ones I talked to) took themselves and their craft very seriously. After a few brusque responses, thankfully a friend in California who wanted to attend a march but could not offered to donate hats to us. It takes a village! With only two days to spare she had to quickly knit two and overnight them to us. When we found out the Fedex fee was a whopping $90 we were floored. Thankfully she found another way to get them to us, but still shipping was a pricey $60.

This march planning was exhausting and we hadn’t even taken a step.

6) Heed warnings: The morning of the march a tips sheet was posted that struck fear into me. It detailed how to survive a tear gas attack and I packed my biggest sunglasses, eye drops, saline and contact case. It also suggested we mark down the number of a free legal service for NYC protesters should any arrests occur. The scariest part was the directive to write the number on one’s arm as all one’s possession would be confiscated. Horrifying! Stacey happened to have a pair of leggings with a secret internal pocket where she hid hers. So Madame Defarge of her!

7) Line up transportation: At last the time arrived and we headed to the Second Avenue bus which would bring us to the protest entrance on 48th and 1st. As often happens with best laid plans, the bus was detoured to 68th and Lexington bringing us far from our intended route. We hopped the 6 train and were immediately greeted by pink hat-wearing marchers. I relaxed a bit when I noticed many were infants or toddlers. Surely no on would bring them to a place where tear gas was a threat! Everyone looked relaxed and happy, if not somewhat silly in their hats.

8) March loud and proud:  We used the bathroom at my friend’s office one last time prior to joining the march and happily strolled with a massive crowd to Fifth Avenue. The whole thing really was like strolling in the city on a beautiful balmy day with tens of thousands of our bffs. Camaraderie, humor and a slow pace were welcome relief from my prior fears. The crowd was relatively quiet, docile, even paced and kind. Teachers, nurses, parents, grandparents, seniors, entertainers and a sprinkling of celebs surrounded us. Signs held up by paper towel dowels were witty and poignant. Some faves were, “What she said” and “This is not fake news.” We had initially looked for cops to ask a question to and the whole time we marched (about two hours) we only came across two, marveling at the sheer number of people in every direction. While there were barricades keeping protesters in the street, people were jumping over and dodging under them willy nilly with no pushback.

Yup! @tayjschilling #whyimarchnyc #whyimarch #womensrightsarehumanrights

A photo posted by NYC WomensMarch (@nycwomensmarch) on

9) Enjoy yourself: When Trump Tower was finally within our sights (the march ended two blocks before it) we nearly floated back to the subway so enriched for such a peaceful and unifying experience.

With the final tally of New York marchers reaching nearly half a million, and not one reported arrest, I guess the Xanax hidden in my shoe wasn’t going to be needed after all.