Our VoiceCulture

One Day in America: November 4th, 2008

Katie Bezrouch • Nov 07, 2008

I woke up around noon, nice and late, just as I like it. I stretched and cracked my neck, and then I remembered what day it was. I threw on my clothes and ran downstairs to the coffee shop below my apartment, grabbed a mug and filled it with the dark blend (spice island, one of my favorites). Then I saw my dull, but strangely glowing, grayish gold bicycle u-locked to the pole outside, and decided it was time to ride. On my way to work, I fantasized about the day’s potential. Sure, I may be spilling burning hot coffee on myself and on my way to work now, but tonight was going to be awesome.

The day dragged on with customers asking their predictable questions: “How big is a medium cup?” “Where is the cream?” - I answer them with sass, to play the part of the typical independent cafe barista: “16 ounces, like every other joint in this city” and “Why don’t you look around for 10 seconds then ask me that question again”.

I decided to send a mass text message to everyone in my phone book letting them know that a group of us would be biking down together, and to meet at the coffee shop if they were interested. At the end of my shift, about ten people showed up, four of us had tickets. The rest of the group was going to gather material for a story to tell the grand-kids, no matter what the outcome the evening’s events, it would prove worthy of some kind of retelling, eh hem, wink.

We agreed to take Clark Street, not only to be visibly part of the political movement, but to be representatives in the constant struggle cyclists face: to be recognized as traffic. As we rode further south, the streets became as crowded as my thoughts. The sodium vapor bulb streetlights spilled their yellow light into what seemed liked a blurred photograph taken with no flash. All of the sudden we were on Michigan Avenue, looking for bike parking. We all walked toward the entrance together, past the t-shirt salesmen and war protesters, said our goodbyes and split ways.

Four of us waited in the line for about an hour. First enduring the loud speaker repeatedly stating what you must and mustn’t have with you, then a series of three ticket checks and bag searches. We finally reached the end, and for the first time, felt the excitement burning inside. In that moment I think we knew we had to just run towards whatever was ahead of us.

We could hear the roar of the masses as we got closer, but couldn’t see them. The standing area was shaped like a giant rectangular reservoir, with the edges sloped up. Only as we approached the edge of the dip did the multitudes reveal themselves. A vast sea of faceless shadows packed in the grassy field, a rare feast for the eyes indeed.

At first we didn’t know what to do, so we just kind of waded around without saying anything. After the initial shock faded we agreed to settle on one of the sloped sides, to safeguard a spot with overlooking the jumbo-tron and the crowd. There wasn’t much to do after that, besides wait for the screen to turn back to CNN. So we ate a ridiculously overpriced pizza while we waited.

As the votes were counted for each state, everyone sitting would stand and cheer or boo when appropriate. The roar was always deafening, no matter which way it went. Cell phone reception was very poor, but I managed to get a few bars. Perhaps the most lucid moment of that night for me came at 8:56, when I received a text message from my extremely conservative father that read: “Congratulations on your victory baby”. I have had many heated arguments with my pops in the past, where I left feeling angry and hopeless. But with that stupid little message, somehow it had all come undone. It was a virtual tip of the hat, a sign of respect that had never really been there before. I had felt very confident all night, but after that I knew it was over. After all, my dad is always right, just ask him.

The final twinkling was of course, the announcement. There was only a split second between Virgina being called blue, and the culmination of the mob. After that, it was totally off the chain.

One of the friends with me had battled an infamous illness for a good part of her youth, and because of her preexisting condition, found it nearly impossible to find any kind of health insurance that would cover her. After we all stopped jumping up and down and screaming, she looked at me, ecstatic, and with tears pouring down her face said “Katie, do you understand? I might get insurance now! I might be okay!”

Although the night may have continued, at that point it was over for me in a lot of ways. We stayed for the speeches, took the lakefront trail home and stopped by the water for a bit to take it all in. I sat there, and in my own way I prayed. To whom I’m not sure, but I prayed that the candidate would make peace with the promises he made to us.

And for the first time in my adult life, I was genuinely proud to be an American.

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