Once every four years, most of my 5,000 neighbors turn out to vote. This year’s two page ballot was a fresh reminder of the concentric circles we each inhabit: small town resident, Rhode Islander, US citizen. An hour after our polling station opened, I successfully cast vote 125.
There was a fifteen minute wait to check out, only slightly longer than the typical Starbucks line in any major airport—but in our small town, such a delay rates as a major inconvenience. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone waited patiently, chatting with neighbors and new acquaintances about anything other than politics. Even though we were all anxious to get started with the rest of our day, and even though small town residents are not particularly good at standing in line since we don’t get much practice, the day’s weighty significance kept us from rolling our eyes or checking our watches.
Perhaps others, like me, felt there was something quite right about spending the valuable currency of time on casting our ballots. Fifteen minutes of waiting in line showed our neighbors (and whomever else might’ve been watching) how important placing our votes was to each one of us.
I’m sure I didn’t fill out my ballot exactly the same way as the neighbor just ahead or behind me in the meandering line, but that’s not the point. All of us took time out of our busy morning to make our voices heard. Making a few new friends (and catching up with some old ones) was just an added bonus.