Thank you, Interwebs

I honestly had sort of decided not to go. All my co-workers told me I was crazy. It would be a zoo. I would be trampled. But then I kept checking in throughout the day and you were all telling me to go. So I did, because when the internet tells you to do something, dammit, you do it.
And even though I left a couple hours before Barack Obama would take the stage, the energy there was just incredible. Everyone was helpful and friendly and no one shoved or trampled. The crowd roared every time election results came in from CNN. At one point, while we were all sitting on the damp grass watching giant heads talk to us from the jumbotron and as newcomers looked for any spare patch of grass to sit on, the entire group of thousands of people scooted up in unison to make room for more people to sit down in the back. I don’t know why exactly that struck me as such a remarkable act, but it really did.
Another thing I noticed was the number of different languages I heard as I walked through the crowds. I was flanked by a German family on my right and a French couple on my left. I heard them talking about how much they wished they could have voted. And in front of them was a group of kids who looked to be about 15. But whether or not they could participate in this election, people wanted to be a part of the experience.
As I headed back to the train station, I underestimated the number of times I would need to stop to take photos of cops on Segways and people carrying giant plastic goats, so I ended up missing my train and decided to just hail a cab.
The cab driver asked me about the rally, and I told him it was really exciting and uplifting. He told me he has never been political – politics and drugs and crime, he said, they’re all tangled up together. But despite that, he wished he could have gone to the rally, just to see it.
Has it been hard, working today, I asked. He told me he preferred working, because his wife and two children just left for India for five months. Her brother is getting married, and his children have never been to India. How old are they, I asked. Two years old and nine months old, he said. He told me he misses them most when he goes home at night, so it’s better if he keeps working. I could see in the rear view mirror that his eyes were welling up a bit.
I suppose it’s good that they’ll avoid the cold winter, I said. Yes, he said, my baby was a preemie and he gets a lot of colds in the winter and that makes me sad. Definitely, I agreed, there is nothing more heartbreaking than a sick baby.
He lost his job in IT, and now drives a cab full time. He’d like to buy a house, but can’t afford it. His landlord was shady and now their building is in foreclosure so he has to move out of his apartment by December, while his family is still in India. We complained about the cost of apartments in Chicago, and wondered when this real estate crisis would start to make housing more affordable here.
After he got to my corner, he turned off the meter and we chatted for another five minutes or so. We smiled and thanked each other for the conversation, and I told him to hang in there while his family was away. They would be back before he knew it.
I came home and drank some wine while I watched the final results roll in. I was a little envious as the TV cameras flashed back to the crowds at Grant Park when Obama stepped onto the stage.
But right now, I am filled with hope. Not because I was swept away by the clever campaigns and media hype, and certainly not because I think a new leader will fix everything. I’m filled with hope because a conversation with a stranger reminded me that whether our candidate wins or loses, whether we believe in the same things or not, we still get to live in a country where people willingly make sacrifices and leave loved ones and cross oceans all based on the dream of greater opportunities and brighter futures.
So thank you, internets, for convincing me that I needed to be a part of this moment. You’re all my favorites.

9 Responses to “Thank you, Interwebs”

  1. churlita Says:

    Awesome post. It’s so true. Who knows what Obama can do, but I’m excited to see. I’m also excited that so many people voted and that I’m not embarrassed of my president for the first time in a long time.

  2. Cheryl Says:

    It feels so good to like America again, presidents and cab drivers alike (because I’ve experienced some crappy versions of both). I’m so glad that you went to the rally, and that you’re the kind of person who talks to strangers.

  3. Tracy Lynn Says:

    I feel exactly the same way, like the America I live in is closer to the America that people talk about when they are being patriotic.

  4. Dave2 Says:

    Some moments are history-defining in every way… if you have the opportunity to be a part of them, you kind of have to do it, so I’m very happy you went. :-) And it was worth it. Beautiful shots!

  5. Pants Says:

    My eyes welled up watching it from the couch in my pajamas, I can only imagine what it must have been like to be there. Thank you for going and sharing your pictures and experience!

  6. claire Says:

    I don’t live somewhere where people fall into the streets to celebrate this sort of thing. It’s nice to see the crowds on tv, but seeing your ground-level shots and reading this post was better, more real and exciting in a one-of-us-was-there sort of way. Bloggers represent!

  7. sizzle Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I completely agree with you.

  8. jenny Says:

    churlita: i think anytime people feel moved to get out and vote, it’s a good thing.
    cheryl: thanks! although i’ve had some crappy versions of cab drivers, too – i just happened to luck out this time.
    tracy lynn: amen, sister.
    dave2: you’re totally right – you have to seize these opportunities as the present themselves.
    pants: it was pretty emotional, wasn’t it?
    claire: you know, i did kind of feel like i was representing all of bloggerdom that day… :)
    sizzle: thanks – i’m so glad i went!

  9. shari Says:

    I heart you. Huge.

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