Entering the building where the voting was taking place, you couldn't see the entire line of voters, as it went around a blind corner and down a long hallway. People coming in could see that the line stretched out of the actual polling room, but until they rounded that corner, they didn't really know what they were facing.
I enjoyed watching their facial expressions as they came around that corner. Here's the thing: most of them broke into bemused smiles. I saw very few frowns; heard no angry muttering. I saw no one turn around and walk out. People were there to take care of business, and they weren't going to be dissuaded by a mere inconvenience. It made me proud of my fellow citizens.
I found it easy to be patient. Debbie and I once stood in line for three hours to vote, so twenty minutes was a relative walk in the park. I've probably written about this before, but one of the advantages of periodically deleting your archives is that you can recycle material and no one can prove it without going to some trouble. Anyway, the year was 1980, when Ronald Reagan was running against an incumbent Jimmy Carter. Reagan won in a landslide (one of the better things that's happened in our country during my lifetime, but we won't get into that right now), and more than 100 million Americans cast votes in that election.
We were living in Garland, Texas, in a new home - our first - and in a new precinct. Our precinct had experienced phenomenal growth since the preceding election - we later discovered that it was, in fact, the fastest growing precinct in the nation - and the voting office wasn't prepared for the turnout. We got to our polling place, a neighborhood elementary school, after work, around 6:00 p.m. as I recall, and the line went out the door, down the block, around the corner, and down that block. We inched our way toward the school, and the sun had set by the time we reached the entrance, where we figured it was just a short wait to vote. Were we ever wrong!
The line then snaked through almost every classroom and up and down every hallway. We saw every inch of that school; I'm surprised they didn't run the lines through the restrooms. The wait was so long that several babies were born, a couple of marriages occurred, and at least one divorce. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the picture. By the time we were finally able to cast our votes and leave, Reagan had already been projected as the winner. In fact, this was the first election where a network used exit polls to project a winner.
Even at that, standing in line for three hours is a minuscule price to pay to participate in the democratic process (even considering the fact that we didn't have cell phones or iPods to provide distractions). Countless people around the world will never experience the privilege of voting for a leader, much less knowing that their vote actually counted.
It's a thing not to be taken lightly, or for granted.