During dinner with new family at six o’clock this past Tuesday, I made the less than bold claim that if they called Florida by ten o’clock we could be certain that the night would be easy and good.
Out of respect for the good fortune of this country, I consciously avoided watching the election results, spending the majority of that evening riding the DC Metro red line back and forth down one distant Maryland enclave, through the city, up to the very end of the other.
Riding, I had the chance to finally finish the Eric Larson book, Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, an astonishingly vibrant account of the World’s Colombian Expedition and the Henry H. Holmes murder mystery. For the first hour I read, I looked up at every oncoming passenger trying to determine their political leaning, their current mood, and any potential relationship between the two.
Nobody I saw looked less or more than blank. I refocused on my reading.
One quote in particular struck me against the backdrop of the night, as Larson recounted the Editor of the New York Dry Goods Reporter, Charles T. Root’s reaction to the successes of 1893 Chicago’s World Fair:
“It was time, he said, to acknowledge the truth: ‘Chicago has disappointed her enemies and astonished the world.’”
What a poignant post or tweet, I thought, to tweet or post the very moment the election was called.
Moments later I got off my train at Grosvenor-Strathmore, one of the few outdoor stations on the line. There on that platform, I promptly spun around three times and spat and cursed.
I got back on the next train, which happened to be heading the opposite way. I had hardly found my place when the train intercom beeped:
“For all of those interested in the election,” the train conductor said, “They have just announced that Obama is going to win the state of Florida.”
I was the only one to shout. A young man silhouetted by rap music booming from his out-turned headphones shot me a look that said not so much, Who cares?, as Who cares? It’s just one state.
Perhaps Florida is that, and perhaps the conductor was mistaken or misinformed in his report. I didn’t care. I would not be spinning, spitting or cursing any more that night. That much I knew: We had won.
I was certain we had won not because I trusted the source or overvalued the significance of the given information. The fact that all the networks’ would refrain from calling the state of Florida for the next few days would not have surprised me much even then. I was certain we had won the race rather because I was certain that of all the possible universes I might have fallen into I knew for a fact I would never have been dropped into a world where I was mulatto and from Chicago and a great fan of great oratory and a bigger fan of a greater orator and happened to be reading the record of the crystallizing moment of Chicago’s entrance into the world’s awareness on a night when that great orator, another mulatto from Chicago, lost his re-election bid to the presidency after the biggest, reddest looking swing state had been mistakenly called into his column by the exact noble operative responsible for the movements of millions across the Chocolate City that happened to be moving me at that very moment. No way.
Certain I was not, nor ever would be, nor ever would have been dropped into a world less glorious than this, I sat back down, read, and rode on.
“…The Windy City had prevailed.”