Thursday, October 30, 2008

History in the making

I voted today. Early. It was an experience that I was not at all prepared for. I figure, go in, fill out the absentee ballot, head on home. Voting. No big deal.

What I found when I arrived at Vet's Memorial was a parking lot filled with cars, tv news cameras dotting the sidewalk, and people...people everywhere. The line wound down the stairs and then snaked back and forth before straightening out into the Bhrem room where in person absentee voting was taking place. In all, I stood on line for an hour and 45 minutes before I had my ballot in hand and headed to the privacy booths to make my choices the old fashioned way -- pen on paper.

As I waited, I struck up a conversation with the woman standing behind me. She was friendly and excited. And the excitement built as we made our way through the maze of people, following the ones before us. She kept track of our time and provided little updates every half hour or so. We talked about the election and the significance. We were grateful that we could feel safe to gather in this public way to cast our votes and not fear for our lives.

I would be hard pressed to estimate the number of people there. The crowd was huge. The lobby area was warm and got warmer as we waited. Watching the people, I was filled with a sense of something bigger than myself, something akin to community happening right before my eyes. Throughout the line, people chatted in groups of two or three. Some people had come together and others were strangers. There were tall people, short people, fat people skinny people, men in suits, women in jean jackets, mothers with tiny babies or two or three toddlers. The news media was there and they periodically stopped with cameras and microphones to speak with someone in the line. Even as we waited and the temperature in the room rose, the line remained orderly. No one complained when the man behind me stepped out of line to use the restroom and then returned. There was no whining or moaning. In fact, nearly everyone there was smiling.

I have voted in numerous elections and probably the past six presidential elections but it has never felt this way before. It was as though the air was charged with anticipation of change, positive change. As Carol and I chatted, we noted how different things had been when her 91 year old grandmother was a young woman. I commented on just how different things would be when the little baby beside us, who looked to be no more than a month or two old, had grown to reach our ages. It felt as though all those who had fought for voting rights, fairness in voting, and fairness in general were gathered there with us in that lobby and that they were cheering us on. It felt like we were making history.

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