Tuesday, November 4, 2008

(to the tune of Rawhide, naturally) Voting, voting, voting...

The kids and I went to the Masonic lodge behind a certain nearby elementary school to vote before I took them to school. I kind of sentimentally wanted them to be there to see the voting first hand. The whole process, from joining the line until I returned to my car, took about an hour. It was a bit chilly, standing outside in line, but the kids and I had coats and the sun came up higher and warmed us up after a bit.

An older woman in front of me surprised me just after we joined the line. A young man standing between the woman and me in line was wearing short sleeves, no coat. This young man was wearing a stained button-down workshirt and looked like he probably works in some sort of manual labor-type job. He was also Hispanic and spoke heavily accented English - that matters in this context because of this town and the dynamics of class/race/ethnicity here.

The woman was dressed for work in an office setting, in a tailored dark purple wool blazer and black pants. She had nicely coiffed hair, perfect makeup, and generally looked rather affluent and professional. And she turned to the young man and made a remark about the chilly weather. When he agreed with her assessment, she told him she had a coat he could wear, and that she would be glad to get it from her car for him. He demurred, but she offered again, more than once. She wasn't annoying about it. She just didn't want the guy to get cold. He seemed surprised initially by her offer, but thanked her for her generosity and declined.

I wish that this exchange hadn't surprised me, but given some of the interactions (or lack therof) that I've seen between people here, I was also a bit surprised by her generosity. There are a lot of immigrants in this town, drawn by jobs in the carpet industry, and I've seen and heard some ugly rhetoric toward people who have come here from other countries - Mexico and elsewhere - in search of jobs. I've heard comments about people who don't speak "good" English (and given the diction and syntax of some locals, they're being hilariously, un-self-consciously ironic). I guess these tensions crop up in many places, but I was delighted to see my pessimistic expectations upended today as we waited to vote.

In general, everyone in line seemed very patient about waiting. There was even an undercurrent of camaraderie. And Big Girl showed me that she's really been paying attention during Dora the Explorer. A mother and her young son were in line behind us, and I was amusing the kids by asking them to identify letters and numbers on the plates of cars parked in the lot. The young boy pointed to a number on the plate of a nearby car and asked his mom, in Spanish, "what letter is this?" She corrected him, saying (again in Spanish), "what number is this?" Big Girl piped up with the correct answer at the same time as the boy.

No comments: