A Day To Be Counted

I turned right onto Tennessee Avenue and gasped. The cars. The people. There were so many of them.
As I slowly drove along the narrow street, lined on both sides with parked cars, I couldn’t believe this was my polling place on election day. I’ve never seen a line here. I’ve always parked right outside the building. Instead, I drove a few blocks down and parked on a side street, happy to make the hike back toward the precinct.
It was a hot day for November, and though we had to fan ourselves under the bright sun, everyone seemed electrified by the importance of the day and the turnout. The woman behind me had a newspaper, and even offered me a section to read while I waited. I cursed my choice of high-heeled shoes, but was very excited as I shifted from foot to foot that so many of my neighbors recognized the gift of a voice, a vote.
I’d been in line a few minutes when suddenly my husband’s face appeared. I was very happy but surprised to see him, because he’d gone to vote more than an hour before me. Although he would likely be late to work, he too seemed excited about the crowds.
Shortly after he left, an old sedan pulled up close to the door, and a tiny elderly lady got out. She fished a walker out of the trunk, and opened the passenger door. Slowly, tediously, her husband crawled out of the car. They were both very old, very small, and seemingly very frail. He pushed his walker and shuffled his feet a few steps, and got in line. I was horrified to think he might have to wait in this line with the rest of us, but luckily his wife found a chair up at the front and sent him to sit in it.
He wore navy slacks, a pressed shirt, new tennis shoes and a bowler’s cap. He had a band-aid on the side of his face. After waiting about 40 minutes, we neared the front of the line, and he began moving chair-by-chair closer to the registration table. I overheard his wife talking to someone in line behind me. “He was just so determined to be here today. He got up this morning, and even cut himself shaving, but he was just so determined to be here.”
I admit it. I looked away because I felt tears in my eyes. Here was a man who obviously had a difficult time being there, but he was willing to overcome so many obstacles so he could be part of such a special event. I don’t know why he didn’t just vote absentee, which would have been easier on him physically. But I imagine despite the physical hardships, it lifted his spirits to get up, come to the polls, and absorb the energy and excitement of the place and the process. Whatever his reasons, I’m glad he came, because he certainly inspired me.