The Wait

Last week, I waited in line for an hour and a half to vote. Normally, I vote on Election Day. Voting early lacks drama and excitement to me. On Election Day, I go to my local senior citizen center. Even though it’s short, there’s usually someone in line I know. We make small talk and we both go vote, the process takes about 20 minutes. When I leave the booth there’s someone else I know and we say something about “civic duty” or “only place you get to see the neighbors,” the November versions of “Hot enough for you?” Then, on the way out, I chat with some residents of the center and I go about my day, with an extra dose of smugness that not only have I done my civic duty and seen friends and neighbors, but I’ve also done a good deed by visiting with the senior citizens.

This year, in 2020, waiting until Election Day did not feel like cheating, it felt like tempting fate. So, a friend and I made plans to meet at Village Hall. On a bright, but cold day, we masked up and waited in line for 90 minutes. We stood several feet apart and caught up with each other. I introduced her to another woman I knew in line. We texted with our teens and husbands. My friend had requested an absentee ballot, but decided to surrender it and vote in person instead. It felt better to her.

The line felt a little cold and a little festive. Not like waiting to buy concert tickets, but not like waiting at the DMV either.

When I arrived at the voting booth, I felt something else.

This was not the excitement of the first time I voted in 1988 (Dukakis). It was not the thrill of the first time I voted for someone who won (1992 Clinton). It was not the hopeful feeling of voting for Obama in 2008 or 2012. It was not the historic feeling of voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Voting for Biden in 2020 felt heavy and important. It felt like a vote that I needed to wait for 90 minutes to cast.

I have seen much longer lines to vote, here and around the world. I know people who have worked much harder to vote. An old friend, a man convicted for a juvenile crime, worked to have his voting rights restored and voted for the first time this year. Waiting for 90 minutes to vote for Joe Biden felt a little like penance, for not doing enough to prevent those lines, for assuming Trump wouldn’t win in 2016, for not doing enough to fight back against the world we’re in.

And now, we wait. We wait to see if our Democracy was saved. We wait to see if there’s any return to normalcy. We wait to see if the Bizzaro World genie can be put back in the bottle. Joe Biden was not my first, or even second, pick for the presidency. But I waited for 90 minutes to vote for him, and I’m glad I did.

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