A Line Worth Waiting In

I was intending to just drive by the polls on my way to the office this morning.  It was 8:45 am, and I expected a long line, but wanted to check it out.  I pulled into the parking lot of the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad (a new polling place for me, since we moved this summer) and noted that there were only about 30 people waiting outside.  Parking seemed a little tricky, but then a car pulled out and there was a vacant space beckoning for me.  It seemed as though this was the right time to vote.

By the time I parked and walked back to the building, the line had grown a little, but still seemed more than manageable.  After another five minutes (during which we didn’t seem to be making much progress), I asked the man behind me if he had voted at the location before and if he knew what the line did once we got inside.  He admitted that this was his first time, too, at this polling place.  As we got closer to the glass entrance, it was clear that the line continued inside and, once inside, we were able to see that the line meandered up a staircase and down another hallway before entering the room where we could actually vote.  By then, I felt “pot committed.”  I had already spent about 20 minutes in line, and it was clear that I had another 45 (at least) to go before voting.  I could leave, but the chance was that I’d come back to the same situation.

I don’t think I’m any different than most people in that waiting in line is not something that I’d put anywhere near the top of the list of things that I like to do.  But there are times when it’s okay.  We have been fortunate enough to attend the Telluride Film Festival for the past five years.  Held over Labor Day, we often explain to people who haven’t been that part of the fun is waiting in line for the movies.  It’s when you can catch up on the “buzz” of what people have seen and a time to meet other attendees.  I tried to bring this same attitude to the BCC Rescue Squad this morning and noted that people were mostly kind, calm and appreciative of the implications of a large voter turnout.  There was the one time when, getting close to the place where you pick up your voter card, I noticed that one of the volunteers was a former client and friend.  I stopped to try to catch her eye and missed my cue when the person in front of me moved ahead about five feet.  A woman about 8 people back noted the gap and called it to my attention, in no uncertain terms.  Her patience was clearly waning.

I was impressed by the number of families waiting in line (in Montgomery County, the public schools are closed since many are used as polling places), and the patience of the children.  There were fathers and mothers with infants and I noted at least one family with four children, seemingly ranging in age from about four to twelve.  One mother, upon seeing a friend not far behind her in line, shared the fact that her daughter (who looked to be about six years old) had just asked when John McCain and Barack Obama were going to show up.

I exited the voting booth about and hour and fifteen minutes after I had pulled into the parking lot.  There are lots of other ways that I would have rather spent that time, but I can’t think of anything else that would have been more important.

Contributing Blogger – Gretchen Koitz