PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

Caucusing

with 3 comments

Last night ’round 7pm—for the first time, though I’ve voted in several elections—I brought my cauc down to caucus. But beforehand, I needed to summon up some energy.

I managed to leave work by 5:30pm, after which—listening to Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House for a freak-folk dose—I bussed to Saint Paul’s Grand Ave. Corner-stationed stood an Obama supporter, a college-aged guy with signs in hand and pointed at the traffic passing on Snelling. Occasionally, someone would honk in support. As I waited for the Walk signal to Grand’s Jamba Juice, I tried not to block his signage. My contortions attracted attention. “Voted yet?” he said. “Not yet,” I said. “But I will tonight.” And I pointed to his sign: “For Obama there.”

“Oh!” he said, just as the light changed, “then pick up a sign! Stick around a while.” I considered how that might end up: a unique and potentially interesting experience, a chance to feel fully alive and in the moment, to step as it were into history’s flow, but I’d have to converse between red lights and was MUCH too tired. Also, thirsty. “That’s okay,” I said. I pointed to the Jamba across the street. “I’m thirsty! Gonna get a Jamba!” I don’t think he responded, in response to which response-lack I raced Jamba-ward.

So. I bought my Jamba Juice, along with a Breadsmith Chocolate Babka, and walked leisurely home in the cold, sipping from my Jamba and licking the chocolate off the bread of my Babka. The walk home required crossing Summit, along which long lines of traffic threaded. All were headed toward the caucus point at the Junior High School somewheres down Summit, the place to which I’d eventually be walking. Once home, I lazed around, ate an entire pepperoni pizza, chatted a bit with my girlfriend, and refreshed CNN.com for other states’ updates.

As I lazed, I read bits of intimidating information about the caucus process. Talk of long lines and long waits, coupled with memories of the cold temperatures I’d suffered through on my walk home, were working to put me off. Should I go? Did my one vote really matter? Of course it did! I wanted to prove to the silent, omnipresent audience of my life that we young people aren’t so easily discouraged. This youth movement—the one written of in several magazines—was for real, and I would not be dissuaded. I put my coat on. I rebuttoned my pants. I took a final Jamba sip. I left.

The long traffic lines were still (both motionless and present) on Summit as I walked. Closer to the caucus point, I was joined by clusters of other voters. We trudged down over icy sidewalks, against the pedestrian traffic of those who’d already voted. Our clusters became large groups. Our large groups funneled into a long line that stretched from the Junior High’s exit to a point around the corner and down the block. It was cold. I was alone. I Twittered a few times and listened in on conversations.

A kid with a geeky voice (which is to say, a nasal, robotic voice over-enunciating its words) wondered to his parents about the differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. How, he asked, were Hillary’s few years in the Senate not equivalent to Obama’s few years in the Senate. Why the charges of inexperience at Obama, but not at Hillary? “That’s a good question,” said a guy behind me, presumably the kid’s father—who said nothing further. “Who are you going to vote for?” geek-voiced kid asked a woman (his mother?). “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll know until I get my ballot and see the checkboxes.” Wow, way to inspire confidence in the democratic process, lady. Geek-voiced kid’s curiosity was lost on his lame-brained parents.

Still, it all felt important. A communal experience, one to be treasured and thought back on. I was excited.

Our line scattered as we hit the inside of the school. Suddenly, I had to figure out which district I lived in, which room to go to, and how to get there despite the brick-wall hordes before me, progression impossible unless I pushed through. I asked a girl at an information table for help, and in response to my question—one I’m assuming she’d heard before—she stood up on her table and yelled into the crowd. “To get to Room 2, you have to go downstairs!”

The bodily heat and smells of those around me were exhausting. Crunched between people, I was at first amused. I actually laughed—and then, wary of pickpockets, I switched my wallet from my back to my front pocket. I’d never been between this many people before, and was clueless about reaching my voting room around them. Might I be there hours and hours? A huge crowd waited for access to a stairwell. I walked around the line and scrunched past them, using the space given to those who were going up the stairs instead of down. A cutter. People were getting ornery. “This is SO a fire hazard,” said one guy. “If there’s a fire in here, we’re all dead.” Said a woman, “This is absolutely ridiculous.”

Downstairs, I faced another crowd. “I just want to go home,” I thought. “I just want to get out of here.” At least I had only myself to worry about. Families were losing each other. “[Wife], I’m here!” called out a husband to his wife. “This is where you want to be! Come with me!” Despite my hesitation, I pushed through and through and through until finally, I made it to Room 2. The helpers outside gave me a tiny piece of yellow paper. I wrote “Obama” on it and stuffed it into a shoebox. I was reminded of a high school election—so much fraudulence potential in this process.

Meanwhile, some sort of discussion was taking place in Room 2, with people—my district co-inhabitors—sitting in junior high school-sized desks around the discussion’s leader, a not very charismatic presence. Two of my neighbors were across the room, unreachable, and they smiled and waved at me. It took me a few seconds to recognize them, my brain was so frazzled by the experience. I got out. I exited into fresh air. I was tired and could’ve slept right there in the snow. At home, I refreshed CNN some more, and watched television, and waited for results.

Later that night, my guy Obama took Minnesota.

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Written by patiomensch

February 6, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Caucus, Obama, Personal

3 Responses

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  1. Kind of beautiful.

    Clementine Bojangles

    February 6, 2008 at 6:00 pm

  2. Well written Pat, I like the part about the little geek boy. I think you could have captured the akwardness with the Obama sign holder dood a little better, but then maybe thats not what you were going for. I Kakused at the same place, it was chaos in there.
    Keep writing Pat youre talented,
    CAB

    Charles A Bird

    February 6, 2008 at 6:35 pm

  3. Obama. Right on.

    thehellenist

    February 6, 2008 at 8:46 pm


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