Yesterday I went to the Democratic Caucus in Portland, Maine. I had never been to a caucus before! I didn’t even realize states still did one. I was eager to do my civic duty and take my stand on one side of the room. I wondered what the representatives of the candidates would say as they tried to persuade undecided voters. The caucus was set to start at 1:00, so I thought I would arrive early. I found parking down the street and walked toward the high school at 12:30.
I followed a group of people down some stairs toward the back of the school and I let out an audible gasp. WHOA! Is that a line of people? My eyes scanned from left to right until they found the end of the line. I began trekking across the muddy field and estimated that there had to be 1,000 people in the line. Oops- I was not early like I thought.
The wait began and I instantly sparked conversation with a nice woman standing next to me. How is this going to work, I wondered? The space behind me filled up quickly as the line traveled further around the corner, up the block, and out of sight. The endless line was so inspiring. Thousands of people were standing in the cold on a Sunday to participate in democracy.
After about 30 minutes, the couple in front of us joined our conversation and we chatted amicably for the next 3 hours. The line inched forward. Our conversation topics were:
- Where we lived previously
- How much more we love Portland, Maine than Boston
- Our jobs- a pastor, former teacher, and a law professor
- Mutual people we knew
- How many people were in the line ahead of us/ behind us
- Other states we lived in- all 4 of us had lived in Massachusetts
- Our mutual disdain of Trump
- Would we all like photos of ourselves in the long line?
- How much we wished for tea, coffee, or anything warm
- The 3 daughters of the couple and the 2 daughters of the law professor
- The problems with parenting and the Internet
- How cold we were
- How great it was to have new friends while we waited
This is looking towards the front of the line after about 2 1/2 hours of waiting!
Finally volunteers announced that the caucus would continue as if it were a primary. We now just had to get to the front of the line, check in, cast our votes, and leave. Hooray! We approached the doors and saw the formation of 2 lines- “A-L” and “M-Z”. The couple and law professor walked to the shorter line leaving me with new strangers.
“Goodbye Cindy!” they said, “Great meeting you!”
“Bon voyage” I said, as they walked to the shorter line. Now I was standing with new strangers with not enough time to make it past a quick comment in response to free pizza that was being passed out, or grumblings that we were still in line 4 hours later.
Finally I made it to the check-table, got my ballot, voted, and left. As I walked out the doors and headed down the sidewalk, I filled up with sadness. I’m going to miss my new friends.