Talk about contrasts: In Massachusetts this morning, my daughter Rachel and son-in-law Noel went to vote in the same polling place where Mitt Romney cast his ballot, at a senior center in Belmont. (They live in slightly different neighborhoods and don't get together for chats.) Not surprisingly, Romney's presence brought about the usual cordon of security.
In contrast to the hullabaloo in Belmont, we voted in our usual place, the William Sidney Mount School in Stony Brook. The school was a tad chilly, but other than that, everything was pretty normal, except for the woman casting her ballot while using a scooter to keep her broken leg from touching the ground. That would be my wife, Judy.
In polling places all over America, with a lot less fuss than at the senior center in Belmont, people are lining up to cast their ballots for president. Some of them here in New York are having to go to some lengths to vote, because of the Sandy disruption. Our friend Renée Kaplan had to walk two miles round-trip to vote by affidavit ballot in a different polling place from her usual one, because her home is still without power, she's staying at a friend's house, and her three-hour wait this morning to buy gas and travel home turned out to be fruitless: No shipment is coming to that gas station.
Whether the voting experience is quiet, noisy, normal or slightly out of the ordinary, one of the things to like about this country is the peaceful transfer of power. By this time tomorrow, if the election results are final by then, Romney will either be surrounded by Secret Service as president-elect, or not. If he's back to being just your everyday multimillionaire citizen again, he can call John McCain to find out what it feels like to suddenly be driving himself, unaccompanied by men with sunglasses and radio receivers in their ear, ready to wrestle to the ground anyone who poses the slightest threat. It's an extraordinarily abrupt change of status, and it happens without gunfire or tanks in the streets. It's the power of all those individual votes, gathered together, counted, and adding up to a national decision of great significance, one way or another.
Let's hope that, either way, the result is clear enough that we can all somehow make our peace with it and move on.