Wednesday, November 04, 2015

November 4, 2015--Election Day: Carol

The diner is right across the road from Town Hall where people came yesterday to vote.

"Is it a terrible thing that I don't vote?" Carol asked shyly. "I mean, I think I'm a good person and should vote but . . ."

"But what?" Rona asked.

"Shouldn't everyone vote?" She said.

"Maybe yes, maybe no," I said, "I'm OK with people not voting if they have no confidence in the candidates or as a form of protest."

"To tell you the truth, I'm nor sure I agree," Rona said, I think it's important to be an active citizen. Not that I'm criticizing you," she said to Carol who avoided eye contact.

"But in a way you are," Carol said. "That's what I was saying. That I should. So I deserve the criticism. Though . . ." she trailed off. "I mean, like I said. I'm conflicted. And you're right. If I live and work here and pay my taxes here, I should be a better citizen."

To shift the conversation, I said, "Well, what's on the ballot this year?"

"I'm embarrassed to say I don't know. Do you?" she asked Rona.

"You got me," Rona said smiling. "I suppose it's no excuse that we're here only half the year and are registered to vote in New York so . . ."

"So what's on the ballot today? In New York I mean?" Carol smiled.

"You got me again," Rona said, also smiling.

"Can I get you a refill?" Carol asked. "That's part of my problem," she said.

"Your problem?"

"I work all the time. Waitressing here and at the other place in ___ . I barely have time to put gas in my car much less think about voting. I mean learning about all the issues." She shrugged and turned to get more coffee.

When she returned, voting was still on her mind.

"I think there's something on the ballot about the minimum wage."

"I think so too," I said.

"That should motivated me. I mean, to vote. I couldn't live on the minimum wage. I would like to have a baby but even making what I make, thank God more than the minimum, I can't afford it. I'd need childcare or preschool but they charge so much I'd be working to pay them. I wouldn't have enough left to pay rent for a decent place. Forget for now my being able to buy a place."

"I don't know how people do it," Rona said, "Having kids, paying for a place to live, heat one's house, and as you said, afford childcare. Unless you have a mother who can help out . . ."

"My mom works harder than me," Carol said. "I have this friend. She has a two-year-old. Her husband, the baby's father, died when she was in her eighth month so after the baby was born there was obviously less income than they had been planning. If it wasn't for the two sets of grandparents chipping in to help--with money and babysitting--I don't know what would have happened. My friend's not comfortable with food stamps and things like that. She feels it's important to work and pay her own way. But, it's so hard. So hard."

"Like I said, I don't know how people do it. And I do know that many people are not comfortable asking for help. Especially not from the government. Partly because of all the nasty comments from some of our politicians about people taking advantage of the system. Not wanting to work to support themselves."

"There has to be a better way," Carol said. "I mean I don't begrudge people making a lot of money. I'm not in favor of everybody making the same thing. People who go to college, people who became doctors, shouldn't they be allowed to make more than someone working in a restaurant or whatever? I'm for that. But in this country shouldn't everyone without having to ask be allowed to make a least a living wage? So they can have a kid if they want to?"

Mentioning that again, I sensed how deeply she was feeling that desire. "You would be a wonderful mother," I said.

"You know, I'm thinking," Carol said, "that maybe I do have something to vote for. Maybe I need to find the time to inform myself about what's on the ballot. If it's to increase the minimum wage here I should be supporting that. But first I need to know more. I can't just complain about things and should be--how did you put it--an active citizen. I think I'm beginning to like that idea. And, you know, I think if I could get myself going, I'd be pretty good at it."

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