A line had developed for early voting, so there were twenty or more people in a staggered line down the hallway at the courthouse. Emergency people were responding to a medical crisis inside the polling area, so everyone else who was waiting to vote had to stay in the main hall.
I spotted a young woman about half-way back in the line. She was no ordinary woman as she seemed to have drawn a crowd around her in the line. She was sitting in one of those motorized wheelchairs with the words Jazzy on the side.
I couldn’t imagine what could be wrong with her that she needed that chair as I watched her almost develop her own following with people who were initially strangers.
Her dark hair kept getting pushed back from her face by her hands as she talked. I could see her eyes sparkling in the dimly lit hall and she seemed to be talking about something very interesting to the others. I stood watching her in awe for several minutes.
Her new fans were completely focused on her words and I wondered how she was able to have such social confidence, especially considering she was in a wheelchair.
As a poll volunteer, I am really just supposed to stand at my post at the entrance to the polling area, and hand out information if asked. I was intrigued by this woman and needed some excuse to go over there to the line.
Considering it made my heart start beating out of my chest. The sweat began to bead on my forehead. I am not social. Thinking about it can make me have a panic attack, but there is something about this woman that makes me want to do it anyway.
I decided to leave my post, and offer her some information about the amendments on the ballot as my excuse.
As I approach her, the crowd around her seems to part noticing that I am there. I think I might have stopped breathing as I got closer. She noticed me too and stopped talking when I excused my interruption. My throat was so dry all the sudden, so my words came out like a sputter—slowly and almost loudly, I spoke, using all my effort just to get them said.
“Would you like…information on, er, uh, the…amendments on…the ballot?” I finally get out.
She was gracious when she thanked me and turned me down. She said she had already researched them before coming out to vote. Of course she had, I thought. She was even more beautiful up close than she was from afar, and I lingered with the crowd around her for just a moment. My knees were shaking and I needed a drink of water, so I returned to my post.
I was the woman in the wheelchair in real life. My perception of that man was that he was being patronizing by singling me out from the line of voters—this was my fellow voters’ perception as well. He spoke slowly and loudly to me as if sitting in a wheelchair meant that I had diminished cognitive capacities.
It was a rather horrible experience for me, but one that I turned into a teaching moment for the folks standing around me. I shared with them I was living at the local homeless program, about my illness, about stem cell research, about the amendments on the ballot, etc.
They spent the rest of the time looking out for how I was treated through the voting line. When they were taking walking people ahead of me, they charged right in to right the wrong to make sure I was treated with respect. I didn’t need them to do that, but they needed to do it.
I like the shift in perspective for this event in my life. It is certainly an alternative to how I experienced it. This was the first scenario that popped into my mind when considering this challenge, although there are certainly many others.