Voting Day After Sandy

Today I’ve been working in the mariner’s lounge at Liberty Landing Marina, which has no power. We never stay at marinas, and so even when I learned that there wasn’t any hot water yet, I didn’t really care. I’m in a room with heat, and that took a lot of effort on the part of the staff here.

When we arrived I threw the bowline to a guy on the dock who said, “Welcome to the only place in Jersey City that’s not wrecked.”

There’s a woman here working in the lounge. She’s been diligently cleaning the bathrooms, the windows, the floors… all by lights that are on thanks to a generator. I was worried that she wouldn’t get a chance to vote with work demands and such.

“So how’s your day?” I asked, “Think you’ll get a chance to get out and vote?”

“Ohhh,” Bernie said, “I already went ta vote.” She did a little hip dip and winked and said, “I do my ting early in da mornin’.”

I said I was glad she was able to go, and she said, “It’s so important, this is our LIVES for the next four years. I go vote and now I come here to earn my daily bread.”

She said she’s from the islands, which I had already guessed as her accent is MUSIC to me, and that she’s been here for 23 years. I wish I had my voice recorder running to catch exactly what she said, but we were talking about the storm for a minute, because I’m so worried about the fact that it was all rushing to get Manhattan their power, and that the people of Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Hoboken, and most of NJ for that matter have had to wait for theirs. The people there have so much to worry about, I hope they get to vote.

My new friend here, scrubbing away and working hard… I wish she had a megaphone and I wish I could get her on the back of a truck going through all those neighborhoods to say to them what she said to me. They’ll all get power in the next few days, but you can only vote today, and it’s your life we’re talking about here.

“Maybe we needed this,” she said, when I said that people have probably met their neighbors for the first time ever because of the shakeup with the hurricane. “I’m from the islands, we have lots of hurricanes there. I’ve been through this before.”

I told her my story about going to Parham and about buying ice from a local teacher lady. I told her I loved her hometown of St John’s, Antigua for its markets and that I really liked taking the crowded buses. She said she’s made money selling ice and popsicles to the sailor types, just like the lady in Parham did. I said I had my best times in the islands when I strayed from where all the white people were. “Good,” she said. “That’s how you know you come to love the islands. The REAL islands.”

I’m so glad she voted.


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