Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Connection, Conversation, and the Mystery of Ohio

I managed to get to early voting today and met a woman named Fran. She sat next to me and did something I never, ever do when I sit next to strangers: She struck up a conversation with me.

I don't know if it's my introverted nature or the impact of living in the northeast for roughly 9 years... but I just don't tend to talk to people I don't know. I assume they want to be left alone, or - even worse - I assume something uncomfortable or unpleasant will happen within the conversation and so I decide it's ultimately safer to remain silent and hope the person near me will do the same.

Silly... yes. Cynical... probably. Of course, almost every time I do end up talking with someone, it ends up being a great conversation that lifts my spirits in some way and renews my faith in others. I have gotten better at being less self-conscious when somebody I don't know breaks the ice, asks a question, or just starts sharing elements of his or her life.

Today I met a Democrat in her 70s who plays bridge with a bunch of Republicans and has a daughter who lived in Alaska for 5 years. She thinks "we" won the last two elections and said she was more excited about this election than any other she's ever been through in her life.

She's voting for Obama. She thinks he's going to do very well. We agreed we're hoping for a landslide.

I get the sense that, if he does win, Fran will happily go to her bridge night that week, barely able to contain her glee as she is finally able to crow over Democratic success and political vindication long past due. Her Republican friends will grumble good-naturedly; arguments and jibes will turn to joking and laughter, and then they will all segue into talking about children and grandchildren, hopes and fears, sillinesses and memories etched firmly in their minds. And life will flow on.

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