Letter to the Man Behind Me in the Voter LinePosted: November 3, 2012
First of all, what’s up with this line? It’s 3:00 on a Friday. This is exactly what I was hoping to avoid by voting early.
Second, you’re not really 97 years old, are you? Seriously? You don’t look a day over 74. And I’m not just saying that. I’d really like to know your secret. How you’ve managed to age so well without letting an old person take over your body. I mean just look at you in your Levi’s and your untucked Timberland flannel shirt under your Northface parka. You could almost be my nephew. Except the band of your boxers isn’t hanging out. Thank God for that.
Your confidence that I, too, will one day get to 97 is flattering. What I, uh, actually said was how did YOU get there but I appreciate the sentiment. I’ve never really had a desire to see 97, at least not in my mirror, but if I could do it as you have and retain the ability to drive myself around and stand in 30 minute lines with only the assistance of a cane, well that changes things. If I could get there with my memory intact as you have, with a sharp mind and a vested interest in what’s happening in our country, well, somehow 97 looks a lot less scary.
I hate it that we were so rudely interrupted by my actual turn to vote. I’d almost forgotten why I was here to begin with.You were telling me about submarine training in NY, a stopover in route to WWII, where you knew you would either have to kill or be killed. My head was still back in 1944, with you, your friend Rob, Ilene, and your future bride, Anita at the Stage Door Canteen in the Broadway Theatre District with Jimmy Durante and Frank Sinatra singing That Old Black Magic as you swayed together on the dance floor. How cool is it that God intervened and you lost the coin toss and got to walk Anita home that night instead of Ilene who had “all the right equipment”? Bet Rob would be jealous of your 67 years of marriage – it just goes to show we don’t always know what’s best for us.
Did you see the way that volunteer looked at me when it was my turn? All sympathetic like you bending my ear was some form of torture and wasn’t it nice of me to humor you but now it’s time to move along little missy and stop holding up the line. That’s ageism, BTW. You probably get that a lot. It seems rampant in our society and it just makes me mad.
You know I wanted to hear the rest of your story. You left me hanging. Like did Rob make it through the war? And what happened to Ilene? Did they get together? And what has this past year been like for you, now that Anita is gone?
Also, did you ever have the chance to see Tallulah Bankhead there at the Stage Door? AmericainWWII,com says she used to play the Canteen. She also had about 30 seconds in the 1943 movie. She’s a distant relative of mine – it would have been a hoot to have met her.
So I looked for you afterward, after I fed my ballot into the machine. I wanted to invite you to Starbucks for a coffee but, sigh, you were already gone. I guess you have to live efficiently at your age. I bet you never waste a second.
I wanted to ask you about the changes you’ve seen in the almost century you’ve lived on the planet. Did people seem less divided? I mean, clearly, you and I are on opposite sides of the ballot based on that slip of blue paper in your hand, and yet you haven’t approached me as someone to be converted to your way of thought. Our country seems so divided these days and the contempt we feel for people with different political views borderlines on hate. There’s news of actual fights breaking out at voting sites in some parts of the country. Bet that didn’t happen in your day. Maybe you’ve been so congenial because you assume we share the same views. Or maybe you just don’t care. Maybe you’ve recognized during your 97 years that diversity of thought is what makes America great, that the freedom to hold a different opinion is one of the awesome things about this nation. Maybe you are just from a generation that valued civility. Whatever the reason, it makes me want to know you more. To actually sit down and hear your political views and understand why you believe as you do. Not for the purpose of converting you. Simply to understand. We could totally hang out, you and me. We could disagree without hating each other. I’m pretty sure of it.
So, man-behind-me, here’s to you. I hope we cross paths again soon. You’ve made an impression. You totally rock!