Friday, October 31, 2008

... In Which We Vote Early, and Are Moved to Whitmanesque Rhapsody Over the Glories of Democracy

We carved some time out of our sorta-busy schedule on Thursday to cast an early vote at the Bayland Community Center. It turned out we needn't have carved out quite so large a slice, as the line, despite winding almost halfway around the sizable building, moved quickly and we were able to discharge our civic duty in about 25 minutes, 26 tops.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and everyone in line was courteous and seemed in relatively high spirits---living contradiction to the abstract nastiness of the national campaign. The queue graciously parted and closed again when precinct workers returned from fetching hobbled or enfeebled voters and escorted them to the front of the line (we'll remember to bring our cane next election). The variegated glory of the city, and southwest Houston in particular, was present in all its multitudinous parts: the middle-aged Chinese couple in front of us, conversing in Mandarin, the lady gripping a rolled-up League of Women Voters election guide; the young Hispanic woman behind us who said she had taken off from work and although initially daunted by the length of the line found it to be moving remarkably fast; the elderly black man, doddering precariously on his walker, who waited patiently until a poll worker helped him inside; the middle-aged white man in shades and the red Sopranos ball cap (that was us). People were happy, and chatty, but in a solemn and restrained way, as if they were on the steps of a Methodist church after services (light on the sermonizing, heavy on the good works, no fire and brimstone whatsoever). As sometimes happens, we were moved to a near-weepy reverie over our wonderful country, and how much we love it (despite its---and our---many failings).

Did we see any celebrities (you're probably asking)? Uh, no, but we did pass before candidates and relatives of candidates. There was citizen Bob Higley, who was passing out push cards for his wife, a candidate for re-election to a state appellate court (how sweet!)---literature that we noticed nowhere mentioned Justice Higley's party affiliation (R). As we rounded the corner there stood Joan Huffman, a Republican candidate in our top-of-the-ballot special election to fill an empty state Senate seat. Ms. Huffman was leaning on a crutch, literally (we did not inquire as to whether she had sustained injury while block-walking). When she sought to push her card on us we felt compelled to explain that we would gladly read her advertisement but would "probably" vote for the main Democratic candidate. "Sure, that's OK," said she. "Gee," we thought, as the line moved on, "she sure is a nice lady," a Gladwellian snap judgment that was reinforced when we heard the old black dude with the walker worry aloud whether his early vote would be fully counted---something off-the-wall like that---and Ms. Huffman patiently assured him it would be. Hmmm, thought we, maybe we'll vote for this lady. After all, we were in no way wedded to Democrat Chris Bell, and had only resolved to vote for him because he's a nice guy, too, and desperately wants to hold some---any?---public office. (We're not a natural people pleaser but we try to help others in need, when we can, and along those lines were hope Sr. Bell will consider a 12-step program for habitual office-seeks should he suffer voter rejection this go-round.) As we rounded into the home stretch---past the cardboard boxes some public-spirited type had provided for the "recycling" of push cards---we had just about made up our mind to go with Ms. Huffman. Then we perused her push card and noticed she had proudly listed her endorsement by the scrofulous Link Letter. Back to C-Bell for us!

Shortly thereafter we were glad-handed by one Dexter Handy, Democratic candidate for Precinct 3 county commissioner, a retired Air Force officer who introduced himself to us (and everyone else) as "honest, ethical and handy," something like that. This caused us to briefly consider asking him to accompany us back home to help fix our leaky kitchen faucet. Instead, we were so taken by the push-card picture of Mr. Handy, resplendent in his old uniform and sporting an impressive chestful of medals, that we cast our meager vote for him. (We have no problem with the incumbent, who we assume will be handily re-elected without our vote.) And for the Justice Missus Higley. And Chris Bell, redoubtable one-time office-holder searching for yet another office to hold. And many judicial candidates who were rank strangers to us.

You say we're superficial, and we say, yes, but that is an inalienable right with which we have been endowed by our Creator. We hope you have a wonderful Election Day and that you remain, as always, honest, ethical and handy.

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