I drove down the road to America and voted today.
My polling place was about a mile away, down a newly paved New England road that leads to the ocean and a couple of honky-tonk bars. The day was unseasonably warm, the sky cloudless.
I road past fields hemmed by walls built stone by stone by Colonial farmers. The corn stalks that had been high a couple of months ago had been stripped away, likely for silage at one of the few nearby farms.
At the elementary school that was my polling place, signs for town council members and the school board were stuck in the still-soft ground at the requisite distance from the entrance.
A woman in her middle years, soft-spoken and wearing sunglasses in the strong afternoon light, greeted me and asked me to consider voting for a dude named Sven.
She handed me a simple card that told a bit about Sven below his young, smiling face: independent, small business owner, hometown boy, Purple Heart recipient. I asked what branch of the armed forces. Army, she answered, Afghanistan veteran.
What’s his small business, I asked. Runs a shooting range was the answer. She asked if I had “served.” I allowed that I had. Then you understand, she said.
That all took two and a half minutes.
Inside the school, an old timer looked up my name and directed me to the assembly hall right in front of me. More seniors manned the tables, and I waited in a line of three in front of a sign that said “N-Z.” Then I showed my license, signed in and got an “I voted” sticker.
It took seven minutes to fill out my paper ballot and put it in a scanning device overseen by another codger. On the way out, one of the monitors thanked me for voting.
Outside, I nodded to the woman pitching Sven and drove off, overcome with a sense of relief that this ugly election was almost over.
There was almost a feeling of purification as if the act of voting had washed away the slime of the past 18 months: the incivility and appeals to our baser instincts; the lies and accusations; the influence-buying and scare-mongering.
One of the two badly flawed candidates will win, and hopefully, in time the damage of this grotesque election cycle will be repaired.
But cruising in the quiet of a country road on a flawless day, our democracy still seemed to be a precious and beautiful thing.