Electoral Collage

Hiding behind his ballot in the gym.
Hiding behind his secret. Ballot, that is.

A hot mess. That’s what Washington D.C. is today, this day before the 2016 presidential election. A complete, stressed out, finger biting, hair twirling, obsessively pen clicking, twitter refreshing, hot mess.

It seems that people are leaning on their car horns more today. Folks are walking into quick eat restaurants, standing in line for a minute, swiveling their heads around and leaving. If they stumbled into the dark relief of a bar, they might sit. I heard FBI director Comey was seen in a Tex Mex joint with a huge margarita. I hope it didn’t leak.

Everyone in town is doing their own personal Nate Silvering. They’re making state electoral count combinations and recombinations–moving states pink to red or purple to light blue–with dispatch and false authority that would wipe the smirk off that smirky Chuck Todd from NBC. This is the guy who’s been having intimate relations with the colors on the map since before there were two actual candidates.

Some are walking the streets, catatonic. Some because they think their candidate is going to lose. Others because they think the other candidate is going to win. There’s some serious negotiations with the political gods going on behind their deadened eyes.

Other levels of disbelief or worry or even hubris are worked out via chatter. Some are chirpy assessments of turnout and lines and campaign stop strategy. Why is he and she going to Michigan? Is it close? Naw, it’s because none of them voted yet. I heard from this friend, super liberal democrat guy, real good guy…

Some are just piling their worries in the laps of their companions. Some are wondering what they can do. Some are actually doing something, signing up and making last minute calls, knocking on doors, getting out the vote.

A group of people said they aren’t watching any more TV. They’ve sworn themselves off social media. You can tell since they are using social media to make that known. You don’t really quit in D.C. Not really.

But tomorrow, maybe as early as 10 p.m., eastern time, maybe much later, there will be some people in Washington that will feel as if they were kicked in the stomach. The blood will drain from their faces. Tears will well in some eyes. Fists will pound tables. Garments will be rend. Teeth will be gnashed. Profane words will be spoken. Loudly. And repeatedly.

And then, but not until then, we will know not just who will be President of the United States, but the status of our democratic system.

The peaceful transfer of power. I have confidence in my fellow Americans. And my prayers are stuck on us.

VOTE!

No Thank You

An empty office chair. The chair is red and it's in a rustic room.

The conference room was crowded. Again. It was always crowded. In addition to having too many meetings, there was frequently too many people in any given meeting. And, to add insult to injury, there were definitely too few conference rooms of substance.

There was enough room around the table for maybe fourteen people. There were an additional eleven or twelve chairs lining two of the walls.

The way conference rooms usually work had senior folks taking the seats at the table and the junior staff hanging out along the edges. Usually is not the norm in this room, though. Many interns and junior staffers read articles telling them it’s important to take their seats at the table. So although they had no substantive role in the meeting–not responsible for any action items, no speaking role and without relevant questions to ask or answer–the table was half-filled with the mute.

This day was like the rest. Musical chairs. Too many bodies for too few chairs.

A young woman walked into the room and stood along the edge. There were three other people posted up along the walls. The meeting was still convening.

One guy who was seated looked up at the late entering woman. “Here, sit here.”

“I’m okay.”

“No, really sit here.”

“I’m good.”

“No. Sit here,” he stood up his full six-foot three-inches.

“Seriously. I can stand. No problem.”

“No, I insist. I cannot accept you not taking this seat.”

He offered because that was what gentlemen do. He was brought up to respect women. To give up his seat. To open doors. To pay for dinner. That was what he was trained to do.

Somehow, though, she, and what she wanted was not part of his training. So it became not about her, and her sitting, but about him and him giving up his seat. And he demanded that she accept his offer of generosity.

I stepped in and said with a smile, “The lady said, ‘No,’ if we heard her correctly.”

He persevered on our young colleague. “I won’t feel right if you don’t take this chair.”

“It’s not about you,” I offered. “No means no.”

He looked at me with a flash of ire that immediately fell away. He meant no harm. He was doing what he was supposed to do. Except he was focused on his own will and his own need, not that of the object of his chivalry. He didn’t know what to do when his offer was not accepted. He had a role. She was stopping him. He had to reset, and he did.

She looked at me with a sense of relief. She didn’t want to fight over not sitting in the chair but felt pressured by him. She stood along the wall, as did a few others, for the duration of the meeting.

Here’s a new rule to add to one’s chivalry equation. When someone says “No thank you,” the correct response is, “Okay.”

Bottom line, if you are forcing your own desire or rules for someone’s benefit who does not share your perception of what they need, back off. Accept their choice. That’s the right thing to do.

B is for Book

Reading a real book. This one is good so far. It's called H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. I'm on page 182.

All good writers are readers. And I have not been doing enough reading.

Oh sure, I read a lot, but find my eyes drawn to too much cotton candy–fluffy and sweet without much substance.

I brought a pile of books to read at the beach. My beach reading is usually geared toward memoir–the beautiful and yet unsatisfying West With the Night; biography–I read Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton on Nantucket a decade before it was a play; and the odd–yes, one summer I read the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks’ 9/11 Commission Report. My preferred fiction runs from Harry Potter, to Roddy Doyle to the aching Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague which had one of the saddest passages I have ever read. I am not a big reader of procedurals,  or romance–just not my style. But I do like me some magical realism.

Yet my reading has been on screen. The day-by-day play-by-play of this whack news year. From “did he really just say that?” to “what will they do next?” to an almost numbing accounting of police killing and killings to attacks on innocents all over the world, I just click and read and click and read. I get distracted occasionally by fights between pop stars and the you-won’t-believe whatevers. And no, I did not get all wound up about nude paddle boarders, but I am sorry to have the “knowledge” that some people did.

So, I am going on a news diet for the rest of my holiday. No more up to the minute feeds. I won’t click on the stories while I am looking at your vacation pics and family time. Seriously, I’m going on a diet, not a hunger strike.

I will now close the browser, lower the laptop lid and open my paper book. And turn the pages until I finish it. And then repeat with another book. And, I hope, another. I want to be a better writer, so I better be a better reader.