Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Last Voter

I worked at my local polling place on Election Day, a day that will certainly become a defining moment in our country’s most recent history.

I spent the day handing out flyers, wearing the badges and buttons of a good friend and pronouncing to all who would listen the benefits of voting for him.


In the early morning hours the rain came and went, by midday the long line of voters that started in the predawn darkness dwindled. Friends and neighbors stopped to chat, adorable children ran in circles around their mothers like the wind that had scattered the leaves and campaign signs all day long and made the parking lot look like a rag tag yard sale.

And as the afternoon wore on the line vanished. By 5 PM it was clear that the expected evening rush was not to be.

Campaign volunteers, who had numbered nearly a dozen, began to depart one by one, eventually leaving myself and two attractive young women outside in the dampness. A few feet away a handful of paid poll workers tolled inside the brightly lit and well heated recreation center that for the last three presidential elections has been my neighborhood’s polling place.

Darkness came and the policeman who had jokingly told us he was there to make sure we didn’t get out of hand called it a night and headed home. His unmarked police cruiser left a wake of scattered leaves, a tap of the car’s brakes at the end of the parking lot painted red lights that momentarily glistened across the wet pavement and then vanished into the night.

A light rain began to fall, and in the blackness of the damp and chilly evening a lone car, with one head light slightly out of alignment slowly rounded the corner coming to a halt, in a nearby parking space.

I glanced at my watch, 7:23 pm, only seven minutes and the polls would close, and then I’d be on my way to join family and friends, the beautiful and the powerful that run our, city and our country, in celebration of our nation’s most anticipated event, the day’s election results.

A sudden gust of wind pushed a down pour of rain past the street lights at the far end of the parking lot as the driver waked towards us with a some what unsteady gait.

A hood over his head, in the darkness the shadowy figure seemed out of place, a noticeable misstep at the curb, suggested a drunk who at the last minute had set aside the bottle to brave the chilly night air after sobering up long enough to remember he had not yet voted.

Out of the hood the figured plucked a cigarette and tossed it into the concrete gutter swollen with rain and water soaked oak leaves.

I glanced at the girl next to me her name Jennifer boldly printed on a miniature campaign sign of the candidate she was representing; she looked at me and rolled her eyes but at the same time bravely called out to the darkness offering information about her candidate.

I stood silent for in the pool of light that we stood, his face was suddenly reveled. I had seen the face before, disfigured by some disease that had robbed his body's immune system of the ability to fight off the growths that populated nearly every inch of his face.

His soft speech, offered a quiet "No Thank You" as he slowly made his was way toward the front door.

The rainy mist swirled around us, the night broken only by his slow shuffle and the sound of the wind. The girls said nothing, and I started to offer an explanation, that the man worked at Wal-Mart nearby but the three of us just stood there in silence.

And I thought to myself that in a world of perfect candidates, attractive first ladies to be and well groomed campaign workers; we often forget that all Americans have a right to vote.

The sky opened up and a steady rain coated my umbrella, the girls said a few hasty goodbyes and dashed to their cars in opposite directions, I too retreated to the shelter of my car.

And so it was that on a cold damp night in November the last voter made his choice and recorded his vote. And of all the people who came and went, the many whom I spoke to and the many I know, the most important voter of the night was a man that some people look away from, not wanting to gaze upon his disfigured face.

But he is a man I owe a heartfelt thank you, thank you for being my neighbor, thank you for coming out to vote on a cold rainy night and above all else thank you for being a patriot and a fellow American.

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