Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wild Time on Elm Street: Presidential Primary 2008

The phone rings. I’m informed of an opening at 4:00 and “would I like to take that appointment.” “Sure!” I say. This is on Monday, January 7th. “You do realize tomorrow is Primary Day?” my husband asks. “Oh geez,” I thought, my appointment is in the heart of downtown Manchester, the hotbed of political activity in the state. I adjust my travel time accordingly. It turns out to be good planning.

Exit 5 off 293 takes you to the Granite Street Exit. This is only a couple of lights from Elm Street, my destination. As soon as I’m off the highway, I’m stopped at the light. It cycles 4 times before I can get through the intersection. I look up the hill toward Elm and can see the cars trying to turn down Elm without success. I check my watch. I’m still OK.

The light cycles continue in the same pattern of cycling three to four times before crossing an intersection, but this affords me ample rubber necking opportunity. Every street corner is mobbed with sign toting, candidate chanting people. My first impression is how large the groups are that are standing at each corner. This is not the two or three, standing- with- each- other for mutual- support group, but large and mob looking in appearance. I begin to wonder if I should be a bit afraid.

I start looking at the people individually and marvel at the cross section of society represented. Young and old alike are standing together in mutual camaraderie. They are not stereotypical in their support either. I see as many young people supporting older candidates such as John McCain, as I see supporting younger candidates like Barack Obama. I listen more closely to the chanting. My skin begins to prickle with the excitement.

I finally make the left turn onto Elm. I progress only a short way. I come to a stop directly across the street from the Merrimack Restaurant. The news cameras are everywhere. In listening to the radio broadcasts this morning, I believe nearly every candidate has stopped in at the Merrimack today. The hubbub doesn’t seem to have subsided yet. I watch the goings-on.

I check my watch again and see that I have ten minutes to make my appointment. It’s evident that there are no parking spots to be had on Elm, and I suspected as much. My destination was to be the public parking garages. I can see by my progress that I’m not going to make any of them. Even if I am successful in reaching a garage, my mind imagines the “full” sign is flashing. I can see my destination building looming in the distance. It is still several blocks away. I decide to look for parking and take the first thing I see.

Up ahead, parked not far from yet another news van, is an SUV full of young men. They are sitting in the windows of the van, waving their political signs and chanting “O-B-A-M-A FOR A-M-E-R-I-C-A” over and over again. I watch them for a while, as I’m not moving at all. Without warning, they pull out of the spot and into the traffic fray. I cannot believe my luck. I pull into the parking spot.

I have ten minutes to make my appointment and several blocks to walk. I’m wondering how I will get past the mobs at the intersections. The sidewalks are as congested as the streets. I decide I’m going to get to my destination one step at a time.

Everyone is friendly, and I have no trouble making progress. I slow only once. An older couple, with a small lap dog on the end of a leash, is standing across from another news entourage. They are grinning ear-to-ear. I pause to see what has their attention. The news folks are under a large carnival size tarp. Is that Mike Huckabee? However, the clock is ticking and I move on.

It takes as long to get out of town, as it did to get in. Now I’m on the race for time again, as I haven’t yet cast my ballot. The polls in my hometown close at 7:00 pm. I arrive in town at 6:38 pm.

The town hall is packed with voters. I see many town folk and they wave in friendly greeting. Some of the polling place workers are long time acquaintances. They tell me there was but one ten-minute lull in the whole day. I’m amazed and predict a record-breaking turnout. The news the next morning confirms this suspicion. Ahh…nothing is as invigorating as politics in New Hampshire.

No comments: