Exercising the Right

I exit the house a little after noon, stepping into glorious fall sunshine. I pass a friend with her two littles, returning from the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, our polling place. The older rides his glider bike expertly while the younger kicks his legs in the stroller. We exchange brief greetings and continue our separate ways.

Seeing neighbors out and about going to and from the polls is a part that I love about election day.

I follow a series of right and left turns, passing two little boys playing in their yard. They look at me quizzically. I smile and cross the street where a tree with burnt orange and brown leaves overhangs the sidewalk. I make a mental note to take a picture on the way back.

A final left leads me to the parking lot lined with polling signs. Turning into it, I follow the sidewalk to where the volunteers pass sample ballots and chat with their peers. A man steps forward to offer a guide while the others look at me and keep talking. It feels strange. I take the guide and continue walking.

Walking towards the polling place is a part that I dislike about election day.

As I approach the entrance an older man and his adult son exit. The older man’s foot steps halfway off of the sidewalk where it turns at an angle, and he falls to the ground. Immediately everyone stops what they are doing to offer assistance. The slow fall into the grass seemed more embarrassing than painful to him, though I am sure he will feel the bruising. He rises quickly on his own and refuses the offer of a call for help.

People coming together in spite of their differences to help another hurting human is a part that I like about election day.

Grateful to have pocketed my driver’s license before leaving the house, I state my name and address and show my photo when asked. Familiar faces, aged a little more since last year, check me in, hand over a ballot, and direct me to the voting tables.

Seeing the friendly faces of the poll workers each year is something that I like about election day.

How far we have come since the early days of voting in a booth with a curtain around it!

Marking the ballot is a part that is hard for me on election day.

It always reminds me that politics is messy. It is truly an exercise of discipline and will for me to mark the ballot and make movement from table to scanner, which I do. This year the lady monitoring it has stickers. Unlike last year, I am early enough to get one. We laugh about that while waiting for my ballot to scan. It has to be re-inserted.

Waiting for my vote to count is a part that is hard for me on election day. Laughing with the lady at the scanner makes it easier.

I turn to exit through large glass doors that look as if they should slide open. My mind thinks, This isn’t the grocery store! My body stops awkwardly and waits. I do not know how to work these doors, and unlike years past, there is no sign to tell me.

Awkwardly not knowing what to do in any situation is something that is hard for me always! Election day just intensifies the shame.

I figure out which door to push, aided by the kind lady holding stickers, and exit the side of the building. Exhaling, I realize I have been holding my breath. I take air deep into my lungs and begin the walk home.

That is when I realize that I am wearing a red shirt today and that red and blue are colors that hold meaning on election day. The odd looks and vibes I sensed while walking in begin to make sense. Why only one person offered me a sample ballot feels more clear. Usually I am peppered with pamphlets.

Alas, my choice of color today is not due to a political leaning or subconscious voting clue or statement. It is out of necessity that later this evening is a choir event where parent assistants are asked to wear SVCC colors of red, white, and black.

Making sense of something that feels off to me is something I like any time!

The walk back feels lighter, and I stop under the overhanging tree branches and look up to take a selfie documenting the moment. The effect is not quite what I had in mind, but, satisfied with my sticker and thankful for all of the ways I have exercised today, I return home.

Thanks for heart-composting with me! I appreciate your words.

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