I take a detour on my walk to work so I can help make history.
That’s right, I step inside the seniors center on Allen Street where I am registered to vote, and my wife and I do our civic duty. The place is choked with a typical Lower East Side mix of burly Latinos and aggressively thin whites, all branching off to voting booths representing this district or that. The noise level is higher than I can remember in past election years. I wait my turn and cast my ballot.
My wife is about to vote when a guy in a wheelchair cuts the line. But she’s kind enough to cut him some slack.
So while I wait for her to vote, I mosey around the white linoleum tiles and yellow-painted cinderblock walls of the center. Past the crowded cafeteria of folding tables and aged, indignant-looking men and women eating scrambled eggs and sipping styrofoam cups of coffee is a media room of some kind. I venture in.
An elderly white woman is seated at the row of computer desks that run along one wall, surfing the web with her cane hung on the back of the empty chair next to hers. I amble toward the far wall, which contains a large bookshelf. All sorts of airport paperbacks from the likes of Nicholas Sparks and David Baldacci vie for space with what look to be cast-offs from The Strand, from “What Color Is Your Parachute?” to “A Tale of Two Cities.”
Then I spot a guilty pleasure: “Jump The Shark.” I leaf through it, learning that there’s a chapter on quizzes; for instance, When did “The Brady Bunch” jump? Answer: when Oliver joined the cast—
“You know, those books are for the seniors!”
I look up. It’s the scratchy yowl of the web-surfing woman. “Those aren’t for you!” she adds with a sneer.
“I’m not taking it,” I say, mulling over the absurdity of some octogenarian having a clue what “jump the shark” even means. “I’m just looking while my wife votes.”
“Oh,” she says, turning back to her computer monitor.
I shake my head and leave.
After I rejoin my wife and continue on to work and then in the evening see the results come in (my guy wins), I feel a tiny bit let down once the dust settles the following day. A that’s-it? vibe.
Even though President-Elect Obama and his supporters hope to end an eight-year bout of tax cuts and war, I still think some people—that would be me—are crazy if they believe, say, the water will suddenly taste better than it did before November 4, 2008.
But I also remember the crabby old lady at the senior center and I have to coach myself not to stay mad at her.
We got a country to save.
–Tim Coleman covers the walk-to-work beat in ‘Foot It.’