District of Columbia, Precinct 39, Ward 1

Election day, Precinct 39, Ward 1, Bell Multicultural High School, District of Columbia, 4 November 2008

I’ve only voted one time in my life, when at the age of 18 or 19 my mother requested an absentee ballot for me, sat me down at the dining room table and showed me how to fill it in. It was an off year and it was some issues and offices entirely forgettable. I consider voting to be mostly irrational behavior since the chance of my swaying my state’s slate of electors is somewhere on the order of < 0.5*10-7. Being permanently ensconced in the liberal archipelago, my vote matters even less. But this election is historic and I figure some children might ask me about it some day. Having to answer that I didn’t vote would be quite the wet blanket.

So for the first time in my life I drug my ass out of bed at some hour where birds and worms lock in mortal combat, hauled on last night’s clothes and walked a few blocks over to precinct 39, ward 1 voting center, namely the Bell Multicultural High School theatre and voted. I got there twenty minutes after polls opened. Nonetheless, the line stretched out the door, down the block, into the D.C. Parks Department parking lot, where it snaked around the perimeter, then back out onto the sidewalk, to the end of the block, across the street and part way down the next block. It was cold enough this morning that people were wearing gloves and hats and performing little mini-callisthenic foot shuffle dances while they waited.

We had an option of voting paper or electronic. Since I was unsure that I could properly navigate a grid of arrows, bubbles and names with my eyes, and since being victimized by Diebold seemed exciting, I opted for electronic.

Of course I voted for Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden. For fun I also voted for House of Representatives Observer Elinore Holmes Norton, a friend of the Colbert Report, and as a cantankerous and cranky old lady, one of the few figures in public life with which this pessimist can identify somewhat.

After two hours and twenty minutes I was on my way back home. There wasn’t much by way of excitement. Some people took pictures. Some high school students shouted pro-Obama slogans from the upper-floor windows. Many cars honked as they drove past our long line. Everyone seemed a little excited when a Navy official of some sort came out and ran the flag up the pole in front of the school. It was pretty bureaucratic. The flag wasn’t folded into one of those neat little triangles like boy scouts and marine drill squads are taught. He just came out with it wadded under his left arm, like it were the laundry. It was a nice autumn morning. The sky was grey. The most beautiful tree on my block had covered the sidewalk with a layer of variegated, crunchy orange leaves. The hot shower between my civic duty and work felt wonderful after that long standing in the cold.

And now the waiting.