Tuesday saw me working one of the polling stations smack dab in the middle of the city. It was mostly people-watching, which I like to do.
I wasn’t expecting to get a whole lot of people-watching in, as I wasn’t expecting a huge turnout. I was pleasantly surprised.
I watched a steady flow of voters come and go throughout the day. All ages, all races, no problems. As it should be.
My favorite people to watch are the elderly. They drive in slowly, get out of their cars and walk slowly, sometimes with the aid of a cane. They won’t be deterred from exercising their right to vote.
When you consider that many of these people were born into a world where they weren’t allowed to vote, it makes their proud determination that much more impressive. I’m not sure if impressive is the right word there, I’m looking for a word that means “gives you chills.” Because it will give you goosebumps. It did me, anyway.
When I walked in to introduce myself to the poll workers, I was met with one smiling face and, “You’re Toby Nix!” by way of greeting.
I fancy myself a pretty quick judge of character, and judging by the smiling face I assumed it was not someone I’d arrested in the past. So I felt OK responding affirmatively.
She told me her name, which sounded familiar, but I didn’t know from where. Then she told me she and her husband had written me a letter a few years back and that I’d really touched them when I wrote them a letter back.
I remembered exactly who she was by then. I get emails fairly regularly from people I don’t know who will write (mostly) kind things about a column I’ve written.
(There was the time I wrote about running for president and my stance on loud mufflers, though. It would seem that the pro-loud muffler contingent doesn’t always understand jest. But I digress.)
I don’t get handwritten letters very often. It always makes my day when someone I don’t know takes time out of their day to type me anything, but it means even more when someone takes the time to write something out on a card and mail it to me.
I don’t remember the last time I bought a book of stamps, and I’m not even sure the red flag on my mailbox moves. But I’ve kept every card that’s ever been sent to me tucked away in a desk drawer.
I try to answer every email or letter that I get. It truly does make my day. Though I hadn’t thought of this particular letter since I sent it, I instantly remembered it and was thrilled that I’d responded.
As the day went on, my pen pal introduced me to the lady who was overseeing the precinct we were working.
She told me how much fun she’s had getting to know someone named Margaret Thompson throughout the day, and how Mrs. Thompson had a birthday coming up.
That was enough for me to sit down and have a chat with Mrs. Thompson. She didn’t believe me when I told her I would wish her a happy birthday by way of this column. She turns 85 on June 1.
This is an official Happy Birthday, Mrs. Thompson! (Now I kind of wish we’d bet on it.)
She told me she was from South Carolina. I asked her what brought her to Coweta County. She said the school system. After she’d graduated from college, Coweta was the first place to offer her a job, so she moved down here.
I told her I’d moved to Coweta County when I had kids because I wanted them in a better school system than that dreaded county I was living in at the time.
She said “Well I guess the school system brought both of us here.”
She was right.
And thanks to the voters that day, and the votes they cast for the school board, the Coweta County School System will continue to be a school system that people want their children brought up in.
When Mrs. Thompson was born, she was born into a world where she wouldn’t be allowed to vote. Now she’s overseeing a precinct and doing a dang fine job of it.
As I sat and chatted with her, I could tell all the people working the polls gravitated to her. Not that they had questions or needed guidance – she is just a person that you want to be near. A conversation you want to have.
I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to sitting at a voting precinct all day. It’s just one of those things that comes with the job. But I found myself still sitting and chatting long after the polls had closed.
You don’t check the clock when you’re talking to someone like Mrs. Thompson. I hope she has an amazing birthday, and I hope she sees this column.
I reckon I’ll see her again in November.
Toby Nix is a local writer, guitarist and public information officer for the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. He is the author of two books, “Columns I Wrote” and “A Book I Wrote.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .