Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Thankful for This Experience

Given the historic nature of last week's election, I wanted some time to reflect and digest before recording my memories. Today is my "How I Spent Election Night" Post. If you continue scrolling down, you can follow (in reverse order...) my day on Election Day. I blogged from morning until Ben & Jerry's. I didn't blog about post-poll-closing because I'd left my cell phone at home accidentally, which let me enjoy the evening fully immersed, rather than trying to record as I went (Rick appreciated my full attention for a change). Here are my observations after the fact.

On election night, after the polls closed and we'd gotten our free ice cream, Rick and I went to our favorite sports bar to watch the election returns, expecting that at least one of the TVs would be tuned to a station covering politics. Heh. Boy, were we unprepared. And given our city, I don't know why!! Here's the scenario.

We live in Cleveland Heights, the most liberal and most integrated city in the most liberal (by many accounts) county in the state. Cuyahoga County is reliably "blue". But Cleveland Heights is seriously crunchy granola. It's situated between 2 large universities and 2 small colleges, with 2 huge competing research hospitals flanking one of the universities. Our population tends to be students, faculty, and highly educated folk from all over the world that feed into the hospitals, research spin-offs, and academic world. Which means we also are balanced in a racial manner, too: my immediate neighborhood is interestingly mixed. 2 blocks north is the Hassidic neighborhood. Our own street is only 2 blocks long, yet is almost a tiny sample of the world as if it were on a prepared slide for a massive microscope. I love it.

"Our" bar is called The Winking Lizard. The closest one is practically walking distance from us, only about 2 miles away. The interior has multiple rooms, and each room has multiple TVs. Each room had only one TV dedicated to a sporting event, and the volume was selected to the CNN tv! :-) What? Worry about missing the election returns? I say again, "Heh!" EVERYONE in the bar was engaged with the goings-on, and talking with neighboring tables. It was an emotionally electric atmosphere.

And friendly!!! I have never seen such friendliness before, and this is a very friendly neighborhood! I felt so warm towards my fellow Cleveland Heightsians (or whatever we are...), and it wasn't just because 98% of us were there to cheer on then-Sen. Obama. Everyone was polite, too. No one got vulgar about the opposing ticket, though the opportunity was there. I really feel good about that. I mean, a few snarky comments were made, sure! But nothing foul, nothing that couldn't be said in front of a child or say, your great-grandmother. In fact, all that I heard that was said that night was considerably milder than things already said in the media or on SNL. I don't know if we were acting out of superstitious fear of 'jinxing' the election. All I know is that I appreciated the considerate behavior.

Many people left before the end; whatever the outcome, Wednesday was still a work day, after all. Rick and I stayed to hear the speeches, which beyond what could have been imagined, given the campaigns. We stood there in stunned relief with other bar patrons and workers, sometimes just listening, sometimes smiling at each other, sometimes spontaneously hugging each other.

There were lots of joyful tears.

Out on the street, people were honking horns and yelling cheerfully to each other. Strangers and friends hailing each other from across the street with the good news made it seem like New Year's Eve or some other grand, universal, secular holiday.

I've never experienced anything like it. I think it's unlikely I ever will again.


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