I like election day. It's like a block party, but better organized. I usually vote at the community center in my neighborhood, where volunteers from different organizations patrol the parking lot with flyers and banners and, sometimes, hot coffee and doughnuts. It's a chance to see my neighbors and come together as real Americans to celebrate the greatness of a democracy. This year, however, I felt a sudden need to vote in a hurry.
It's my sister's fault. A few weeks ago, she called me. "I want you to know, you are very important to me and I love you very much," she said. Uh-oh. This could not be good. I clenched my jaws, eroding whatever is left of my receding gums. She was in a terrible hurry, she told me, and just wanted me to know.
She stuttered with excitement. "I'm packing up the house!" she said. "I need to be out of here, and fast." She explained in rushed sentences that the world was about to end. She'd been up all night, boxing up her romance novel collection and the baking tins she'd hoarded since our grandmother's death. She mentioned something about a dire prediction and then she hung up.
I checked the web, source for all accurate news and prophecy, and quickly found the forecast she'd erroneously referenced. According to the Mayan calendar and some experts who believe in this sort of thing, the earth's pulse has been accelerating since 1980. My sister embraced the tabloid embellishment of the story which included floods, quakes, fires, death -- all before the end of 2012. Can we humans sense the changes in our world's pulse? It would explain why she was in such a rush.
We are a culture obsessed with speed. Speed is associated with certainty and trust. Speed counts when you're having a heart attack or a stroke. Speed even has a role in reproduction: A study at the University of Oxford found that the red jungle fowl produces more speed-assuring semen when mating with an attractive female as compared with an unsightly female, although little information was available on the assessment of said females. The point is, speed matters.
For some reason, I felt a sudden need to speed up the voting process. I went to the early voting center and found myself in the middle of a long line. I decided to pass the time with an ad-hoc survey: "Why are we voting early?" I asked the determined citizens around me.
"I like to be first," one person said simply.
"An early vote carries more weight," another person said. "I want this one to matter."
A woman with two weeping children rolled tired eyes. "The schools are closed with an outbreak of the flu. We've been cooped up for three days. This is a great excuse to get out of the house!" Her older child looked at me and then threw up on his mother's coat.
What was I doing there? I was not really in a hurry to vote -- I just got swept up in the speed craze. I stepped out of the line and went home to exercise the best use of my time: I took a nap.
On election day, I'll be well rested and unrushed. I am already looking forward to those doughnuts.