On this Thanksgiving Day I am grateful for all the people who voted on November 6th. I’ll risk sounding like a fan of tribalism when I say how relieved I felt upon learning there were millions of Americans who voted against GOP candidates, and by fiat, against the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My “tribe” of humanistic, civility loving, intelligent, and caring folks was alive and more than willing to express their wishes via the ballot box.
As we’ve done for several years now, my spouse and I worked at our local polling place. Along with the other members of our bipartisan team, we were perfectly willing to arrive at the Polls and work from 6:15 A.M. until how ever long it would take us to tally the absentee votes (there were forty,) take down all the sample ballots and voting instructions, sign a tome of documents, and post the voting machine’s results on the inside surface of the building’s glass doors. At 9:30 P.M. we returned home, almost blind from exhaustion and malnourished (thanks to the day’s meals of donuts and pizza,) but ebullient about our area’s turnout and the results of that turnout. By the way, it’s possible to overdose on donuts, coffee, and pizza.
Although our group of Poll workers shares the same age demographic, we represent different genders, races, political affiliations, and professions. The mix creates opportunities to experience and practice tolerance.
Our Judge of Elections, B.K., is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known. His non-stop witticisms challenge us to keep our sips of coffee and donut nibbles in our mouths instead of launching them as if they were rocket fueled projectiles in search of a landing pad on some voter’s shirt.
We’ve watched B.K. approach voters and ask a few (usually the serious, intense ones) if they’d like to dance. Two weeks ago he greeted a priest waiting to be signed in. B.K. gestured toward three of us working at the sign-in table and then asked the priest if he’d do him the favor of performing three exorcisms.
“But make it quick, Father. We’ve got a long line of people waiting to vote.”
Do you see what I mean about his sense of humor?
Over the years I’ve learned how to deal with the few curmudgeons who ALWAYS vote. One guy in particular used to set a verbal trap for me by displaying his driver’s license.
“Here’s my I.D.,” he’d say.
“Thanks,” I’d answer. Then I’d step in it. “I don’t need to see your license because currently Pennsylvania doesn’t have a Voter I.D. law.”
“Well we should have one. How do you know who I am?”
This was his stock answer and question, ones that I always wanted to respond to by saying, “Sir, I know exactly who you are.”
I know also that I should avoid using sarcasm with children, teenagers, and people of a certain age. So… this time I thought I’d agree with him.
“You may be right. It’s possible that one day everyone will have a national I.D. card similar to France’s Carte d’Identité,” I said.
“What? That’s a terrible idea!”
Citizen Curmudgeon didn’t miss a beat. He did miss the fact that I’d agreed with him, and in doing so he’d provided the best example of Oppositional Defiance I’d heard since I retired from the classroom. O.D. is fixable with ninth graders. Not so much with oldsters.
That interaction aside, this past election was a remarkable experience. Seventy-two per cent of the registered voters in my precinct sloshed through downpours to cast their vote. We greeted many first time voters as well as several brigades of men/women using walkers and canes. White, black, brown, and tan faces offered us their names in Spanish, French, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and Eastern European tinged English. A microcosm of American citizenry stood in front of us, stirring memories of the diversity that filled my childhood-to-young adult neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia.
I’ll remember this past election because the determined Democratic voices of the electorate muffled the sounds of “Lock her up!” and the news of bombs mailed to those who seek to preserve our country as a nation of laws with separation of powers.
I’ll remember also the five minutes before seven A.M., when our humorous Judge of Elections gathered us together and reminded us of the locations of the polling room’s and building’s exits.
“Just in case,” he said.
I heard the serious tone in his voice and I felt the gravity of his message.
This is America’s reality. I’m coping with it. I am hopeful.
May we who have enough extend a kind gesture to those who are in need.
Renée Bess is the author of five novels, and along with Lee Lynch, the co-story collector of the anthology, OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS. She’s thankful for Andi Marquette and Jove Belle whose Women and Words site hosts her blogs the fourth Thursday of each month.