At 6:45 this morning, I didn't want to get up just yet, as my immune system is all revved up fighting my cold leaving little energy for commonplace things such as verticality. But Nicholas was wide awake and raring to go to school, so I sent him over to the polling place to stand in line for me.
He called me up. "Dad, the line isn't moving at all, and I want to go to school!"
"I'm nearly ready, and besides, I'm finding bus money for you."
When I got in line, I saw he'd been talking with a woman from Games of Berkeley, where he sometimes volunteers. It's more like he sort of helps on the floor for free in exchange for playing some of the games. He hung around another 10 minutes or so, visiting, then left for the bus.
"That's a fine young man you've raised, there," said Tanya.
"Thanks, I'm pleased to hear that."
She was brilliant at small talk. She introduced her Dad and his friend. Another young man came up, "Say, didn't you work at such-and-such?" Yes, she had, and what have you been up to? "I've got a 4-year old daughter, I'm in love with a wonderful woman, and I'm saving up to buy some recording equipment to publish some of the 15 albums' worth of music I have inside me."
Around us, a small knot of conversation flowed and twisted. Her Dad: "Yeah, right there was the 59th Street Club. It's condos now. Before the BART came through, there were houses all up through here. That was Mariposa street, not Martin Luther King."
Laughter, as a pair of elderly women shared a chair, moving it forward a foot at a time: "We should've got you a wheelchair!"
Another: "I wonder when I'll come down off the adrenaline rush. Election day is always exciting, but this one is especially so!"
"When so-and-so left that school, in less than three years it had turned ugly."
Tanya kept the conversations going. I realized her talent wasn't small talk. She has the gift of being interested in people, along with great recall of names and events.
We were in line to vote just less than an hour, but it passed quickly, spending time with neighbors who have never met, joined not only by common purpose to help shape our future with our votes but also by this woman's talent at creating community.