Voting San Francisco Style
Politically innocent despite having watched several years before the assassination of Bobby Kennedy on television in the wee hours of the morning, despite having watched,again on television, the turmoil and violence of the 1968 Democratic Convention, despite Watergate, I was excited to vote, to participate. I cast my vote nervously and left the voting booth in pride.
Yesterday, I voted at San Francisco's City Hall. I took Muni downtown, got off at the Powell Street Station, pulled my coat hood over my head and walked in the rain through the United Nations Plaza, the Civic Center Plaza, and into the gold-domed City Hall. For the first time in my life, I stood in line and waited over an hour to vote.
The line was long, but the voters waiting their turn were happy and friendly. We joked that someone could make a killing selling pastries and coffee to us; that San Francisco's famous Tamale Lady could wrack up the sales – if only she came by with her twinkly little bell and cartful of tamales. Parents stood in line with their children, lovers stood in line holding hands. Grey-haired ladies with large bags sat in camp chairs,and one young fellow, seeing an old couple moving quite slowly, gave up his spot in line for them – giving them a ten minute wait while he went to the end of the line – to wait another hour. Students stood with ipods plugged into their ears, books in their hands, and their feet tapping out a beat on the tile floor. One woman worked the NY Times crossword puzzle. I brought papers to grade, but scarcely looked at them. We laughed and smiled. We exchanged tidbits of information and gossip: Steve Young, former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers and a Mormon, has a No on Prop. 8 sign in his yard. The mayor, Gavin Newsom, will be in the Castro in the afternoon, reminding folks to vote. But we delicately danced around the topic everyone had foremost in their minds: the reason we were all standing in line – the historical nature of the election and the man truly responsible for the large early-voter turnout. No, we didn't speak of Barack Obama, but why else would so many people, old and young, happily wait in line to vote on a dreary, rainy day in San Francisco?
I went through the state and local ballots first, following my little cheat sheet prepared at home. I drew my line across the ballot for my congressional representative. And then I paused, to savor the moment, to say a little prayer, before I cast my vote for President with trembling hands. I tell my students: don't vote with your heart, vote with your head. But I voted with both. How could I not? And I walked out of City Hall with my “I Voted Sticker” securely plastered on my coat lapel. The rain came down harder than before. But I skipped through the heavy sheets of rain, splashed through the puddles. Pretending I was Gene Kelly, I danced my way back to the Powell Street Station, ran down the stairs, through the closing doors of the M line car, and smiled my way back home.