1. Several weeks ago, wearing an Obama T-shirt, I am accosted in the university area by a panhandler near Starbucks. I'm in no mood. "Hey, Obama!" he shouts out once I'm across the street. He takes me as an easy mark. I'm not. Like I said, I ain't in no mood. I always gladly help out the neighborhood guy, Mike, who makes his living collecting bottles and cans. That's his job. Mike never panhandles. In fact, he does not ask for anything, just works the streets, even in the dead of winter. We've become first-name friends.
2. Yesterday, Election Day, at Arby's in rural Upstate New York, a young truck driver glares and glowers at me; he wants to catch my eye. At first I thought he was staring at me because we knew each other. I come to realize it must be my Obama button. I'm afraid, honestly wary, about saying anything to him. He looks steely and fierce. I eat, read the paper (the Times, of course), don't raise my eyes. He leaves, drives off in his huge waste hauler.
3. Today, Hess gas station, west side of Syracuse, I'm buying the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Daily News, The Post-Standard. I'm standing in line next to a black woman, professional, maybe in her forties. I've got my bow tie on and sport jacket. Our eyes meet. I say, "It's a great day, isn't it?" "It's a beautiful day," she says, her face radiant, beatific. We both exchange campaign stories. I tell how the day before, in Athens, Pennsylvania, young and old, black and white, Hispanic, straight and gay, worked together. "This is America." She tells of having 18 kids, presumably students, work in the campaign. We have tears in our eyes. I think she thanked me. Huh? Did I thank her? I walk to my car. I want to just walk back inside and hug her, but by then she was either gone or other customers were in line. Plus maybe she'd think I was weird, but I don't think she would. More likely, I'm afraid of what emotions would pour out of me.
4. Later this morning I fetishistically go to buy another copy of the Times (they say they were selling for $199 on Ebay; people in various cities waited in line merely to buy newspapers!). I wanted a copy without a price tag of $1.75 on it (besides, it's only supposed to be$1.50). I want a clean, unblemished original. An older woman, matronly, 60s or 70s, is behind the counter. Humorless. You know the type. "It's pretty historic. A good day to buy the paper." Nothing. Blank. "Here's your change, sir."
5. Wearing the button is a cultural-political-emotional barometer of sorts. "Obama!" a woman in the post office says to me in the mall post office, in a good way, I surmise.