Working on the corner of Main and College, I feel I have a unique perspective on downtown Durango, sort of like a peep hole into the pulse of the local people. Over the years, I have seen all manner of happenings out my desk window, from traffic jams and pedestrian near brushes with death to police busts and one-man breakdancing concerts. So when Monday afternoon rush hour approached, I didn't even notice the unusually high occurrence of horn blaring. However, a pattern soon developed, and I looked out my window to see a couple of guys standing on the corner holding signs, which I could not quite make out from my vantage point. One of the guys was in the process of displaying his political disagreement with a passing motorist via his high-flying middle finger and accompanying curse word (which I could make out). In a further show of defiance, the young man then turned and boldly walked in front of oncoming traffic. While steadfastly looking dead ahead, he irreverently held his sign for waiting motorists to see. He then disappeared down the street, possibly in search of more lucrative street corner.
With only one day to go before the election, it was obvious that things were starting to get ugly. Candidate signs were getting vandalized, political differences were escalating to kicking matches and assault charges, and nasty letters were filling the Telegraph's in-box. Earlier that morning, I had removed a piece of pro-life propaganda from under my windshield wiper and had returned home that evening to several pre-recorded political messages on my answering machine. In fact, General Wesley Clark had called me so many times, I was beginning to think we were going steady.
Of course, such reactions to intense pressure are only natural, sort of the fight or flight mechanism. My response was slightly less exaggerated. I opted for an early morning walk to the voting booth. But the intense pressure of the process was not entirely lost on me. In fact, I hadn't been that gripped coloring in little dots since my SATs. I anxiously filled in the appropriate ovals and then went back to double-check that I hadn't made any erroneous miscalculations in lining the bubble up with the corresponding name. As I stood in line to submit my ballot, I again took a peak, just to triple and quadruple check. But soon the time had arrived to relinquish my work. And with a slight of hand, and the wonders of modern mechanization, my ballot was sucked into the great abyss, and Missy Votel had voted.
I walked out into the morning sunshine with that indescribable feeling of liberation that only comes with taking such a test - albeit one I probably wouldn't see the results of for several days, if not weeks. Adorned with my shiny new "I Voted" sticker and the promise of free beer and an end to the madness, I returned to work, keeping a watchful eye on the clock and the trickling in of election results.
Twice that day, ralliers returned to their post on the corner outside my window, at the crossroads of downtown Durango, once around noon and then again toward evening. But in contrast to the previous days' showing, these were decidedly more happy, peaceful affairs. Like me, these people had likely relieved themselves of the pressure of the ballot box and realized it was out of their hands. The only thing left to do now was wait. As the evening hours wore on and cold and darkness set in, the gathering outside my window grew larger. By around 6:30, it had grown to full-blown Mardi Gras status, with people cheering, waving and clapping. There were no angry horns blaring, just the occasional happy bleep in show of support.
I though it strange that, as 7 o'clock and the closing of the polls neared, they were still at it, trying to lure that last voter to the polls. But when poll closing time came and went, and the party continued, I realized that the gathering wasn't so much about politics as it was about people - in this case celebrating an end to the nastiness and a return to civil behavior. It was as if a giant pressure valve had been released. All the hard work had been done, votes had been cast, and all there was left to do was listen to the voice of the people.
- Missy Votel