Without coffee, this would never have been possible: yet there Rachel and I found ourselves, tumbling out the door at 5:50 A.M. to go vote. Our neighborhood in Huntington is best described as “sleepy,” even in bright sunlight, and the dim pre-dawn light wasn’t helping: trees loomed, streetlights flickered and buzzed, and we gradually grew aware of other people joining our pilgrimage.
The community center in Huntington is infamously hard to find, and we live about 500 feet from it. Neither of us even noticed the place in our first three months of Huntington residency; it’s buried in the center of a long block of lush yards and tidy homes. This dim November morning, the alleys leading to the center had cheerful, G.I. Joe stenciled wood signs pointing the way. (We followed.)
Big, sleepy trees and backyard fences funneled us towards the community center and our chance to vote. Turns out the entrance we’d picked had been turned into an exit that day, with an arrow guiding us to the other side of the building. One guy in front of us followed the detour with fully-extended airplane arms. He was startled by our chuckles.
Even the Beltway’s muffled roar was subdued at mumble-mumble-o-clock in the morning, but there was little that could be described as “subdued” about the turnout. A line of at least fifty people yawned along behind the center, with another few dozen closing fast. After securing our place in line, I took a few photos at arm’s length, mostly out of surprise.
It took about half an hour to get up to the center. No telling how long the line got behind us. On the way, we met more of our neighbors–a guy from Tennessee; a guy living in the expensive and sparsely-occupied new condo high-rise; a guy who’d just had open-heart surgery for his sickle-cell anemia. The time passed pretty quickly, with only one solicitor offering us a sample, pre-filled ballot. One tent of cheerful Obama people in fancy clothing was being manned; three other guys with fancy clothing and three-ring binders sat next to the entrance of the community center, looking intimidating and shifty. But they didn’t actually do anything, as far as we could tell.
And before we knew it, in the community center we found ourselves. “Anyone A through L?” Woosh, forward, through the sheep-gates and into the voting center. Sorry, new friends, see you later. A flash of the ID, a monotoned recitation of our full legal names, and an all-important question: “Paper ballot?” Oh, yes. I scribbled in my bubbles and fed the paper to a machine, and five minutes later we were tottering back home in the steadily brightening daylight.