The Professional Protester

One of the lessons we all learned in the past year was that we should pay more attention to the hardworking American laborer.  The quiet working man who rolls up his sleeves every morning and gets things done.  The forgotten patriot.Chip Groffler is one such man.  Let's listen to his story.Every morning, Groffler gets up and makes himself a bag lunch.  While some laborers might just cram their lunchpails with PB&J or deli case Lunchables, Groffler's job requires that he adhere to a more specific culinary profile.  "I've been buying a lot of kale and arugula," he says.  "Quinoa.  Whole-grain sustainable locavore kinda stuff.  You don't want someone to get a glimpse of your bologna-on-white and go 'Hey, wait, this guy doesn't belong!'"Groffler, you see, is a professional paid protester.  And he's proud of it."I think it's a noble calling," he says.  "You're out there, in the crowds, under a hot sun, on your feet — if you sit at a comfy desk all day, I don't wanna hear you talking smack about how I earn my living."protestGroffler comes by the trade honestly.  "I learned at my father's knee.  My pop got paid to march against the Gulf War in, like, '90," he says.  "His dad made some coin padding out the March on Washington in '63.  My great-great-great-great-something got a day's wages to storm the harbor for the Boston Tea Party."  He grins.  "I've gone into the family business."And business is good.  On a typical day, Groffler is one of hundreds of subsidized protesters who reports to the regional office to clock in — "Morning, Janice," he chirps at a stone-faced receptionist at Soros Agitators Inc. — and tap into the central database.  He finds out where protesters are needed and claims as many events as he thinks he can reasonably cover.  He and his colleagues compete for the big assignments and taunt each other in the break room.  "Dana's grumpy because she has to get up in Congressman Flaherty's face about water quality today and he's got major halitosis," Groffler teases as his coworker, stirring her coffee, sticks out her tongue at him.  "Hey, if this job were easy, everyone would be doing it!"And if it sounds like most of these professional opportunities tend to cluster on one side of the ideological divide, well, Groffler has noticed that too.  "I'd love to protest more on the conservative side of things."  More gigs means more work means more money.  "But pardon my French, the pay for those opportunities is shit.  Back when the Tea Party stuff was big?  You had to provide your own tri-corner hat and colonial knickers.  Not like I don't have those things but hello, that's just not professional.  You've got that Koch money, pony up."And has he worked a Trump rally?  "I looked into it," Groffler says.  "But they try to pay you in merchandise.  I'm sorry, but until my utilities companies start accepting steaks and China-made neckties as payment, I prefer check or cash, thanks."  Besides, there is the question of pride.  "The pay really has to be good for a Trump event, because what if a picture of me in one of those baseball caps goes online and, like, my high school girlfriend sees it?  That's bad for me.  I have to live with that.  And realize I'm saying that as someone who dressed as a giant walking vulva at the Women's March last month."Even in the best of circumstances, it isn't easy money.  "Some newbies drop in, think they can make a quick buck, they don't even last a day," Groffler says.  "They don't prepare."  A glimpse at Groffler's typical pre-protest regimen reveals a rigorous battery of aerobic exercise, upper-body training ("Signs get heavy, man"), breathing exercises and vocal warmups.  "Amateurs, they scream at the top of their lungs and they can't keep it up.  You can't bedevil a legislator if you're hoarse.  You gotta work that diaphragm: push those hysterical recriminations up and out."And it's not just the body that needs priming.  "Sure, I'm just doing this for the money," Groffler says, "But if I don't believe it in the moment, my target won't believe it either."  So he undergoes a vigorous pre-work routine he calls "rage-nurturing.""Confession time: I don't really give a shit about health insurance or foreign policy or transgender bathrooms, or whatever — who does?"  So he gets himself agitated over things that really do matter to him.  "Drivers who don't know how to park.  People who get to the front of a line and haven't decided what to order.  Drive-through workers who don't know what 'extra cheese' means. Oh, and the cancellation of My Name is Earl.  All that stuff really burns my toast."  Once Groffler summons sufficient pique over these issues — "It's a visualization process" — he's ready to go out to the fairgrounds or the town hall and vent some very authentic-looking fake outrage.Even though Groffler's a pro, that doesn't mean everything always goes smoothly.  "One time I was screeching at a Congressman about voting rights and it wasn't until I got back to the office and checked the spreadsheet that I realized I was supposed to be screeching at him about a pipeline.  That was pretty embarrassing. He must've been like 'What's up with this guy?'"