The public elementary school where I vote is just a 2-minute walk from my house. I enjoy a quiet saunter down our short street. The leaves have been falling all morning; a thick golden carpet covers the yards. I remind myself that I have to run to the local hardware store for paper leaf bags after I get back home.
As I approach the school, a red truck pulls into the parking area. I recognize the driver; he’s a neighbor of mine. We’ve known each other for decades; our children grew up together. Although we remain on friendly terms, our political views are different.
One of the local candidates up for re-election stands on the sidewalk, holding a campaign sign across his chest.
“Beautiful day,” he says.
“Sure is,” I say, flashing a non-committal smile.
I enter the building, walk past the table filled with baked goods for sale by the local PTA and pause to survey a large poster on the wall depicting a sample ballot. Another poster adjacent lists 6 town referendum questions on the ballot.
I step into the polling place, show my driver’s license for identification, collect a ballot and find an empty chair at one of the desks in the middle of the room. I glimpse my neighbor, head down, seated at another desk several rows away.
I review the questions and the candidates, make my selections with the felt-tip marker, slip the completed ballot inside the privacy folder and make my way to the front of the room. One of the volunteers collects the folder as he directs me to insert my completed ballot into the machine on the table. “Either side up will do,” he says.
Another man thanks me for voting and places a sticker on my fleece. I step out into the morning sunshine and stroll past the line of smiling candidates on the sidewalk.
Back home I slide into the driver’s seat of my car. It’s a short run to the local hardware store. One of the employees directs me to the stack of paper lawn and leaf bags. I pick up an armful and head to the checkout counter.
“Say, where did you vote?” the woman behind the register asks, pointing to the sticker on my fleece. “My polling place isn’t giving out fancy stickers like that.”
Several other people careen their necks to look.
I reach for my smartphone and tap the photo icon. “That’s the first selfie I ever took,” I say, showing the cashier. “I sent it to my kids with a caption underneath: ‘The triumph of hope over experience’.”
“I like that,” the woman laughs.
I sign my name on the electronic screen and tap the button. The cashier hands me my receipt.
“I hope that tomorrow, as a nation, we can all regroup and get on with things,” I say.
“I’ll second that,” she says.
Back home, as I pull into the driveway, the leaves continue to fall, gently slapping themselves against the hard ground.
By this time tomorrow they will all be down.