"It ain't over 'til it's over." -- Yogi Berra

So I make the long Election Eve (1996) drive from Brampton to Podunk, Middle America - about 30 hours in total, since I gave out about halfway through, due to spaciness; there were a couple of nap-times in rest areas. Plus I'm slow to begin with - I'm a bit of a drive-55 milquetoast on big highways, and my penchant for taking obscure scenic routes whenever possible slowed my progress even further.

Why do this? I had no choice - Celia gave me The Lecture (or, "she read me the Riot Act") on voting, even quoting Yogi Berra (she is, normally, a sportophobe) and veering into Oliver Douglas territory. Sure, she said, all the experts and pollsters were saying Clinton would beat Dole, but you never know... And since I lived in a swing state (normally Dixiecrat Republican in recent years, but the almost-Republicans Clinton/Gore made a strong showing in '92), my very vote could make the difference between winning and losing (yeah, right)... And there were, of course, other offices up for grabs - my vote would be important there, too. Of course, she punctuated all her arguments by waving my lighter in her left hand, and my Grey Cup tickets in her right. Very persuasive.

I arrive at the Podunk condo, planning to take a nap first. But I'm both tired from the trek, and wired from the coffee I drank. It's about 3 PM; the polls close in four or five hours, I guessed. Would I want to get up again? No. I decide to go vote first. It's a one-minute drive to the church building that houses the polling station; it's also a five-minute walk. I decide to walk, figuring myself to be a hazard behind the wheel.

Luckily, the lines aren't as long as they were in '92; I manage to get through the wait without dozing off. I'm given the long ballot; I fill in things quickly, voting straight-ticket Democrat where possible to save some time (i.e. this one selection counts as a vote for all Democratic candidates where applicable). I thought about writing in Ralph Nader's name, as I'd mentioned to Celia in our previous vote-or-not-vote discussions.

I head back home. On the way, there's a woman coming towards me, in the distance; maybe she's on her way to vote. As the distance narrows to about ten yards, she abruptly crosses the street to the other sidewalk, as if spooked by something. When I turn the corner to head to the condo, I take a peek back, and see her re-crossing the street, heading to the church to vote.

I had forgotten. To me, I am me, ever since I became conscious of myself as a baby. I don't think about myself all that much. But I was still wearing the clothes I'd slept in Sunday night - the Full Regalia of black leather jacket, multi-torn jeans, long johns underneath, and my old black Corrosion of Conformity t-shirt, the one with the fallout shelter logo turned into a horrid anti-nuke deathmask. I was wearing Melissa's weird black ski hat (bequeathed to me on the playground when we were in Grade 5), fashioned into a toque-like thing; some curls tumbled out of it - I needed a haircut (and a bath, for that matter). I hadn't shaved in a week, so my face, outsider-swarthy to begin with, had unruly stubble and a goatee to add to its thuggish appearance. The hornrims are no help at this point; I still looked like a doctoral candidate in Mayhem. To that woman, I was intruder-scum, either a pile of dog shit to step around, or, worse, a potential rapist. I see now why she seemed spooked.

But to me, I'm me. Eloquent, kind to animals, charm-school manners at times, a wonderful babysitter in my day. I am soft and gooey to the core, no matter what costume I'm wearing. But to some people, I guess I have a "RAPIST" sign fastened to my forehead.

I sleep like a baby, soon after I hit the mattress. Upon waking (about 10 PM), I call Celia and report in. Statewide, the Republicans are as strong as ever; in the presidential vote, a mainly three-way fight (with Ross Perot in the mix), Clinton gets to keep his gig. I switch to the public access channel to catch the local numbers; at my polling station, Dole got over 60%, pretty typical of things around here. I report that number to her, then sum up:

"You know, of course, that my vote didn't change any of these outcomes."

"Yes, but it's the principle that counts, right?" True. What kind of participatory democracy is it when a majority of voters abdicate from participating?

"Maybe so," I said.

"When are you coming back?"

"Week or two? I don't know. I'll be back in time to reclaim my tickets from you."

"Are you going through Virginia on your way back?"

"Probably." Weather permitting, I like to drive through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

"Get me some cheap cigarettes, then."

"I love you too, kid."

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