Republican convention delegates were treated Tuesday night to the motor coach equivalent of the “purple ticket tunnel of doom,” that spectacular logistical foul-up that stranded thousands on Barack Obama’s inauguration day.
Hundreds of people trying to return to their hotels after an upbeat night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa found themselves trapped inside buses for two hours.
Shuttle diplomacy it was not. More like an Ann Romney/Chris Christie buzz kill.
“This is outrageous,” Jon Gegenheimer, a 66-year-old New Orleans court clerk, fumed in a bus that had failed to budge for longer than Christie, the New Jersey governor, had to speak. “I think I’ll stay at the hotel tomorrow and watch it [on TV] rather than go through this again.”
It had taken about half an hour for all of the convention-goers to board buses at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The real delay came when the buses tried to unload passengers at Raymond James Stadium about five miles away.
Riders were supposed to disembark there and board new buses fanning out to various hotels. But the buses created a huge traffic jam as they entered the stadium lot, so riders were forced to wait as the coaches — bathroom equipped, at least – idled and idled and idled.
“I’m gonna get off this bus in five minutes,” a Texan barked at the driver who’d refused his request to let him out. That was near the end of the ordeal. The Texan stomped back to his seat and never made good on his threat.
Several passengers got sick on one bus, according to a passenger whose mood was so foul that this reporter did not dare ask her name.
“I hate this day,” she seethed.
Once the passengers were let out, there was much confusion about which buses they needed to transfer to in order to reach the right hotel.
It was nearly 2:30 a.m., three and a half hours after Christie had wrapped up his keynote address, before delegates arrived at their lodging.
“I guarantee you their well thought-out plan isn’t working,” said Paul Hoag, 57, a fiscal officer from Ohio.
The irony was palpable.
Here’s the GOP, celebrating a man best known for making Olympic trains run on time, and it can’t get the buses in gear?
Charles Sciolano, a 54-year-old heart surgeon from Kansas City, was not sure what the bus fiasco said about the party. He knew only that Mitt Romney was not to blame.
“He’s not in charge,” Sciolano said. “That’s the problem.”