Today is Election Day across this fantastic country of ours. Its the day we get to make our opinions heard and count. I actually voted on Saturday, since my lazy butt couldn’t manage to throw a stamp on a registration form and stick it in the mail before the due date. I actually did it on the last day, but the Post Office stamped it on the 10th, thereby invalidating my registration. The elections office was nice enough to send me instructions on how to take advantage of Grace Period registration and voting, which is what I did.
My California ID, utility bill, a puffy jacket, and me, headed downtown Chicago on Saturday afternoon. Thinking, “hey, its the last day, I’m sure everyone has already done this, plus it’s the afternoon. I’ll just walk in, throw a check mark next to the guy who doesn’t hate me for being me, and go home.” When I got there, I realized, I was in Chicago.
A line that wrapped inside the Cook County building and then stretched out and around the block is what I was in for, and it was starting to rain. I considered for a moment, not casting my ballot as it looked like it would be a long wait and I was cold, hungry and about to be wet. Then I thought of what I would tell my friends when they asked if I had voted. In my mind’s eye, I could already see the whites around each of their eyes and the flush in their cheeks as they were about to berate me for not taking advantage of something so many have fought long and hard for. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let them down. I couldn’t let my voice, however small, not be heard.
I stepped in line and prepared myself mentally for the next two hours. What I should have done, was get a snack and a warm drink. Silly me. 15 min into standing against a brick wall and moving a massive five feet, the girl behind me in head to toe purple tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could hold her place while she ran across the street for some coffee.
“Of course” I told her.
Then she offered to grab me something as well. So polite, so thoughtful and I was SO grateful. When she returned with my hot chocolate, we started chit chatting as we moved down the block. We talked about life in Chicago, how great it was to see so many people taking part in the democratic process and being involved and who care. About half way down the block, the girl in front of us turned around to ask a question and got involved in our conversation as well. Girl in purple was from Bakersfield, CA. Girl in front of us was from Houston, TX.
The three of us all arrived in Chicago in different ways, but were all together, making friends with strangers and conversation. Not once did any of us pull out our phones to check facebook, or email. Not once did conversation falter. Not once did we ask who each other was voting for.
In the middle of this political sh*t-show, in the middle of a very active political city, in the middle of casting ballots, the three of us didn’t discuss politics. We used our time to discuss food, jobs, life experiences and our individual stories. I don’t think I’ve ever had a discussion like that with strangers. Hell, I don’t even know if I’ve had one like that with friends.
2.5 Hours that passed quickly later, we each went into our own little voting booths and cast our ballots. As we went our separate ways, we said our goodbyes and nice to meet yous and that was that. We didn’t exchange names, or numbers, but just ideas, experiences and some laughter. Although it was a long day, it was very refreshing.
So today while everyone is stressing out and anxious, myself included, I’ll have a fond memory to hold onto about what voting was like for me this year. Those connections were good, pure, and easy, without agenda, just fellowship and I don’t think enough people know what that feels like. But I’m glad I do.