On election night, my friend and I went to Times Square to watch the election returns rolls in with thousands of other people. Even though the area was packed with people watching the giant screens of ABC (people were ignoring the giant FOX screens), traffic was rolling through and everyone had to keep clear of the cars, buses, and semi-trucks.
The excitement in the crowd built every time the number of projected electoral votes for Obama grew. The rise was quick in the beginning, and then as McCain's numbers started to grow as well, people got quiet. There was a long time where we stood and watched nervously, swiveling around 360 degrees to try to see all the giant screens at once. It was probably the worst way to try to take in new information - "overstimulating" is an understatement.
Excitement started rippling through the crowd again when Virginia and Ohio got called for Obama. When the number was at 207 for Obama for what seemed like forever, I found a woman with a coloring book map who was filling in red and blue as each state was called. Her map had the electoral college numbers for each state. We knew California was going to Obama later in the night. 207 plus... plus... 55 = 262. Hawaii was also a sure thing, 268. Oregon and Washington also supposed to go to Obama... ooooh, 270+.
But still, officially, he was still at 207.
About 10:50, the FOX count for Obama clicked over to 297. No one celebrated. It was FOX News and the distrust in the crowd for that network apparently ran so deep that no one was going to believe what they said. Good news or not.
At 11:00 pm, Rebecca and I were desperate to see another big map of the country. Which states had polls closing? Then all the screens changed. The crowd started roaring. I was seeing pictures of Obama but no numbers and it took me a few seconds to figure out what the scrolling words were telling us.
Rebecca and I started screaming and hugging and jumping and shouting. All at the same time. I really thought we were going to knock over the Reuters' camera guy and his equipment that was next to us.
So many people shouting and screaming and taking photos and talking on cell phones... It was weirdly joyous and yet isolating. I thought everybody would be talking to each other and hugging each other. There was a little of that, but many more people seemed to be talking via electronics to people far far away.
Rebecca and I went down into the subway not long after McCain appeared to make his concession speech. We hoped to get home before Obama's address. Waiting underground at 42nd St. we heard a wave of shouting and cheering. We couldn't hear the trucks and buses rolling overhead, but we could hear people's jubilation. We guessed that Obama had arrived on stage and was about to speak.
The ride back to Brooklyn was calm. I had hoped it would be a party train, but mostly it was the regular scene of tired people heading home after a night of work.
My neighborhood was more rambunctious. People were honking and crowds shouted in happy response. "WWhhhhhhhaaaaaa! Obama! Obama! Whhhhhhaaaaaa! We did it!!!!!!!!!!" That went on till at least 2am. I went to bed after that.
Oh my, I can't wait to go to the inauguration.