Outside the polls, a stomach churns

Last Sunday morning my husband and I sat watching, not college football highlights on ESPN, but campaign lowlights on "Meet the Press." As the political experts traded talking points, I wondered if my fingernails would taste better dipped in maple syrup.

They’re calling it one of the closest presidential elections in history. I’m calling it fine justification for a Xanax prescription.

My husband keeps telling me not to worry. It’s out of my control, he says. Coming from a man who squares up to our TV when Michigan State loses, that holds about as much weight as the next Apple product.

There is one thing making me feel better about the tightest competition I’ll ever care about that doesn’t end with a champagne shower, though. And that is, casting my vote for the third time here in Nevada.

Here’s why.

If you’ve ever lived in a red or blue state and voted against that color, then you know telling yourself "every vote counts" is basically a coping mechanism. Likewise, if you’ve ever voted in coordination with a state’s color then you probably see a ballot for the other guy on par with a letter addressed to Santa Claus.

Neither scenario applies in a battleground state, though. We can actually impact who makes that concession call Tuesday night. Or Wednesday morning. Or, if it’s Gore-Bush close, sometime before Valentine’s Day.

That’s why I decided to vote early. It’s the only way a worrywart like me can chill already. Because my husband was right: I don’t have control of the election – who do I think I am, Karl Rove? But, I do have control of my vote.

And this year, it took me all of 15 minutes to cast it. If you’re thinking that’s the good news, you’re mistaken.

Since the first time I voted in 1996, I’ve always waited until the Tuesday after the first Monday in November to hit the polls. Also a first, my last-minuteness has nothing to do with procrastination.

It’s about the experience, and the time it takes to get to those digital booths on Election Day is a crucial part of that.

That’s where you discover who relied on more than the campaign commercials to stay informed. It’s where you learn who fell for those rehearsed debate zingers and Facebook mudslingers.

How? Well, people try to stay quiet in those lines, but it’s hard. Especially if a honking car zooms past, yelling "Yes, we can!" That was my voting experience in 2008.

Man, it didn’t make folks in that long line happy. On the other hand, man, it really made folks in that long line happy.

In contrast, the early voting scene felt much different. The lines were short, and people kept quiet.

After casting, checking and quadruple-checking my votes, I walked out from under the tent in the Whole Foods parking lot and made for my car. This time around, though, the closure of the "I voted" sticker didn’t stick. So, I hung around.

I’m not sure what I was waiting for, but I’d know it when I saw it.

As volunteers directed foot traffic, women in workoutwear found a spot in line. Men wearing Dockers and Bluetooths looked at their watches. Moms held both sample ballots and the hands of their children. One guy, autographed in ink and swollen with P90X pride, took a self portrait with his cellphone. "Look Ma, I voted!"

He provided a small dose of the voting-day energy I so enjoy. So did the elderly man who, I gathered from the phone call his granddaughter conferenced us all in on, demanded a ride to the polls that morning.

I eyeballed all of them, shoved them into a convenient voting bloc and decided then and there for whom they placed their vote. Because everyone knows that whole judgment thing only applies to book covers.

That’s when I got what I didn’t know I was waiting for. A Latino man in his 40s looked me straight in the eye and said from behind a smiling dark mustache, "No lo pienses tanto!"

He was right. I shouldn’t "think about it so much." And, if a complete stranger feels compelled to offer me that bit of advice, I’ve decided to heed it. Until Tuesday. Hopefully by then I’ll have a bottle of maple syrup and a couple of Xanax nearby.

Contact Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

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