If you’re sitting on your living room floor watching people talk about a red and blue map of the United States, you know what I mean. If patience is a virtue, America has been given the opportunity to learn it. Waiting, for anything, has become a bygone of our consumer culture. And yes, I do believe even our political choices have warped into expressions of identity no less than what style of clothes we wear and cars we drive.
Movies stream on demand, dinner can be ordered and delivered from your smart phone, any one of a billion items can be shipped to your door in a single day…. with a smile.
And then March happened.
And we waited on toilet paper, face masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, random food items and information.
As spring and summer went on, the hiccups to our previously well-oiled distribution system became apparent. Lumber, aluminum cans, parts for appliances, vehicles and bicycles- backordered, just to name a few. Garden seeds, paper towels, canning jars, and deep freezers, out of stock, again just to name a few.
Oh yeah, definitely couches too. My son and daughter-in-law bought their first house this summer. It was floor sittin’ for a few months in the living room. Think about this for a minute. Pick any item in the room you are sitting in and think about how it got there. I’m sticking with the couch. Lumber, fabric, metal and foam all have to be brought together…. to make a couch. Let’s start with lumber. Trees have to be grown, cut down, milled, shipped, cut again, shipped again and finally nailed, stapled, glued or screwed into a frame. Even if assembled here in the United States, most of the pieces that make most of our furniture, such as cushions come from Asia. There is nothing instant about manufacturing. Every piece first has to come (or derive) from nature and doesn’t magically replenish itself. Every piece has to move hundreds or thousands of miles on a ship, truck or train, then be put together by machines and human hands. Every product we purchase has a similar story. Events like hurricanes, blizzards, floods, fires and pandemics put kinks in that process.
The same goes for elections.
There have been unforeseen events in the past that have also affected elections. Such as the 1918 pandemic and WWII which both resulted in low voter turnout and after Hurricane Sandy when election norms had to be changed to allow for displaced residents to vote. In 2001, New York State’s primary election was held two weeks late as their primaries that year were on September 11th. The presidential elections of 2000, 2008 and 2012 all had late results in some states. The difference between then and now is that there were enough electoral votes to declare a president elect without the missing results. The pandemic arrived without a pandemic plan. We didn’t have protocol on how to control it, how to ensure doctors, nurses and hospitals were prepared with PPE and equipment to treat it. We didn’t have protocol on how to determine what businesses are essential and exactly what defines essential. We certainly didn’t have protocol on how to ensure everyone can safely vote. We didn’t even have protocol on who makes decisions…. on protocol.
So here we are, with chapped hands from sanitizer that smells like vodka, a basement full of toilet paper and windows washed with newspaper. Here we are sitting on our floors, watching people draw circles around red and blue colored states on a map of our country. Here we are, afraid to open the paper because after a few flips we’ll get to the obituary section and for many of us, we’ve seen a friend’s name on that page already.
Here we are, learning to be patient. Learning to slow down and feel. Maybe even learning an even harder lesson, to accept that we aren’t in control of everything and some things just take time for good reasons.
Audrey L Elder