Monday, September 22, 2008

if pressed, this is what i'd say hope looks like

I registered voters yesterday. I stood for two hours in front of a gas station and registered voters. Two of them. One per hour. I couldn't be more pleased with how I spent that time.

I stood next to Andi with my clipboard, held so that a sign taped to the back of it proclaiming "Register to Vote" could be seen by anyone who bothered to look, and asked passers by if they were registered. My fear that people would be annoyed seemed to be unfounded, at least in this location.* When asked if they were registered, people would respond that they were and then would tell us that they were happy to see us out there trying to make sure more people could answer the same way. Another person informed us that he had just registered and he "can't wait" to vote.

While the support was encouraging, we spent quite some time without anyone filling out the forms attached to our clipboards. Eventually, Andi and I began to wonder if our time would be better spent in a different area. We debated the pros and cons of moving our efforts and tried to figure out what alternative locale would prove to be more fruitful.

As we did this, a sixty-something black man passed by. "Are you registered to vote, sir?" I asked. He stopped dead in he tracks, looked at me, and smiled one of the friendliest smiles I've seen from behind his slightly unkempt, graying beard. "No. Let me run inside and I'll be right back out." His son was with him. The son, a registered voter, was plainly excited that his father was showing interest and assured us that he was in no rush. He would make sure his father registered.

It turned out the old man didn't need any prodding from his son. He came out of the convenience store and made a beeline straight towards me. Since he was without his glasses, he asked me to fill in his information for him.

We all joked around as the old man dictated his responses. When I asked him what party affiliation he preferred, he emphatically stated that he wanted to be a Democrat. They asked Andi and I about our affiliation. I gave a quick look around to make sure our impartiality wouldn't be jeopardized by answering and mumbled that I a Democrat as well, adding that I was "kinda afraid" of what a John McCain presidency would be like.

"Kinda afraid? We're more than just kinda afraid!" came the response.

By the time I handed over the clip board and form for him to look over and sign, the old man's smile widened even more (I have no idea how that could have even been physically possible). I can't imagine what it must have been like for him, knowing what he's seen in his lifetime, to finally be registering to vote(and knowing who he was registering to vote for, assuming that being more than kind of scared of McCain doesn't translate to a Libertarian vote).

The old man and his son thanked us, we thanked them, and they went back towards their truck. Before he got in, the old man looked up and repeated what we'd heard earlier from another new voter: "I can't wait."

Andi and I didn't say another word about going somewhere else.

*See previous post.


girlnblack77 said...

Thank you *so* much for sharing this story! I know that they are taking as much time as is necessary to register my college classmates - first time voters - so all of us can honestly answer that we are registered!

Whenever I'm volunteering (or stuck) at a table and experience a similar trickle of target individuals, I try to remember that it's similar to being lost. If you stay in one place, folks find you. Also, you never know how many folks come early in the day and go back and tell their friends where you can be found! :)

Tracy said...

Ben, thank you for my 'warm fuzzy' for the day.

Steaming bowl o' Calderone said...

Great story, man. I am amazed at the proliferation of "I'm voting for Sarah Palin and that other guy" bumper stickers I've seen recently. That woman seriously frightens me.