Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A View of a Three Hour Tour

I got up at 6:10 this morning so I could get to the polls early. I figured I'd leave the house around 7:00, go in to vote about 7:15, be done by 7:30 (no later than 8:00 if those stories about long waits were true), and get to work no later than 9:00.

You know what they say about the best laid plans. I left the house about 7:00, got to the polling place about five minutes later. The fun began when I turned onto the street where the school that houses my voting precinct was and I saw nothing but a sea of parked cars.

It took about ten minutes to find a parking place. Then I went inside and I saw nothing but people.


This picture doesn't do the line justice. The line wrapped the entire length of the elementary school where I vote. Up one set of stairs, down the hall, around a corner, back down the hall and the stairs to the gym/lunchroom. Some folks brought a book. Others kept scanning their endorsement lists and voter info. Some weren't sure where they needed to go, but there was a steady stream of line captains and voting officials to make sure everyone was in the right line and was registered to vote.
There were three precincts assigned to the school. In two of the precincts, a voter could get in and out relatively quickly - a half hour to an hour tops. In the third precinct - my precinct - it was a bit longer.
After an hour, I called home to let the family know they were going to have quite the experience and to suggest they walk to the polls instead of driving. I called my job to let my boss know that I may be a bit late. I wished I'd grabbed a cup of coffee before I walked out the door. That's when I noticed something.
Nobody was complaining. Nobody was in a bad mood. Nobody was leaving.
The line was full of people, young and old, working and jobless, long time voter and first time at the polls. Everyone was saying good morning to each other. People were getting seats for elderly voters who needed to rest their legs.
By now, two hours had gone by.
Some said they wished they'd brought in some water, or candy, or a book they'd left in their cars. No problem. People were more than willing to hold places in line, share a pack of gum, let someone use a cell phone to call work to let the boss know they'd be late. People told jokes, gave each other high fives when they admitted this was the first time they'd ever voted, and were kind to each other.
One of the poll workers came through and thanked everyone for voting, giving a running pep talk to people in line and as they left the voting booth. Another went through and took all the elderly and disabled people to the front of the line so they could vote without the wait. They gave her a round of applause. One of the election workers said she'd never seen so many people in line to vote in all her years of working at the polls. "Damn this makes me feel good," she said as she watched the line grow.
There was only one hint of possible conflict at about hour number three. One man accused another of trying to cut in line and a small shouting match broke out between the two of them. Then people began to speak up.
"Hey! Watch the language! There are kids in here!"
"Come on, now! That's not what today's all about! We're here to vote!"
"Calm down, you two! We need you to get along and do the right thing!"
And just like that, a possible situation dissipated because, as one person put it:
"Man, we're here to vote, not act a fool! Today is about history! You better come together and recognize!"
Indeed. No matter what you believe, no matter who you back, today was - and is - all about coming together and recognizing. It's all about history.
It took me three hours to cast my vote, and it was the best three hours I've ever spent in line.
More later. And if you haven't voted yet, what are you waiting for? You better recognize, and get your butt to the polls.

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