“I could have been a chemist,” he kept saying in between handing out ballots. I wasn’t sure what that meant or why he would even say such a thing. Was it upon learning that one of my children was a chemist and my husband a chemical engineer? Would the story have changed if my son was a dentist?
All afternoon (I’m not kidding), he regaled me with chemists. This cousin was a chemist, that uncle was a chemical engineer, the other cousin was a chemist. And that cousin’s brother-in-law. Every once in a while he’d remind me, that he too, could’ve been a chemist.
After quite a long bit of this (and they were all educated at Stanford, Princeton and the like), I asked, “Are you making this all up?”
Once I revealed my ties to Schenectady, he introduced Jack Welsh’s recent death, some famous electrical engineer that studied at Union College and names of people who lived in Scotia. I had to keep reminding him that I was ten years old when I moved away.
Eventually, he shared his passion about working the food bank in Newton. Eighteen years. He knew a lot.
It rained after dark, sometimes hard enough to sound like hail hitting the roof of the gymnasium. Energy was high. Turnout was high. People really wanted to vote. People brought children and dogs, health care aides.
In Massachusetts, if you’re a registered independent, you can vote in the primary but you have to pick a party at the table. ‘Here’s the Republican ballot.’ ‘Here’s the Democratic ballot.’ I cannot tell you how many times a person when asked, hesitated. Paused as if making their minds up right then and there. Are you serious?
I mean, plenty of people were unsure of their Democratic pick right up until the moment of voting. Because of SC, things were very fluid.
But to not know if you were embracing or rejecting Donald Trump? And then to decide, as if on a whim?
The warden, a woman shorter and wider than I with a wry sense of humor, had had it with us poll workers by the end of the night. We were taking too long to count. The entrance counts weren’t matching the exit counts.
“Split the difference,” she kept announcing regarding bigger and bigger discrepancies.
A cop who had the locked case of ballots to deliver to City Hall gave me a ride back to my car.
I could have been a ballerina. A Jungian psychologist. A scholar of Japanese antiquities. A mathematician.
(Two out of four?)
The public strangers are really an interesting group of people. After classes they like private time with me to discuss past lives, ancestors, gardens they have tended. It’s a swirl of mysterious strangeness. I only need to stand , listen, nod every so often. And hope not to repeat the experience.
You’re teaching a class soon, aren’t you? At the start of the 8 hr shift all I could think was, “Kill me now,” but after a while I started to get a kick out of him.
That was a mighty entertaining telling Dee. You have a talent.. Can’t help thinking it points to how desperate for communication most folks are and how woefully inadequate most are for genuine equal exchanges. Each of us shielded by our sealed stories, by our ‘knowing’. It’s not easy to encounter the other without locked opinions, to be open to the intimacy of discoveries. We all want to be heard and understood. Maybe we aught to teach toddlers that before the alphabet. If you can’t make a sentence without letters, perhaps…..
Michelle, that was beautifully said.
You are a most excellent writer! With him listing all the family members…I couldn’t help but think of the horse racing Seinfeld episode…his father was a muddier, his mother was a muddier…
Haha Good for you for putting in the time. And this is how the conversations with my neighbors goes. 🙂
This made me laugh out loud… and say a prayer of gratitude that I wasn’t there.
Omg I would have lost my mind. I could have been an axe murder…There’s still time. He’s lucky it was you and not me. patience is a gift.
I could’ve been an axe murderer. Good one!!
HA! This cracked me up. I miss going to the polls- the people, the energy.
Do you do mail in’s now?