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October 20, 2014

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A clipboard, a confident wave and an Election Day to remember

NOW:

Wanting to be part of the action, I volunteered to do an Election Day exit poll at the Kidd Mobile Home Park in the shadow of the Eastside Cannery today. The mobile home part is what sold me on the idea. I expected a lot of guys who wear flannel shirts and drink lots of beer. I thought it might be interesting.

I thought wrong. Most of the residents at the Kidd Mobile Home Park are retirees. Nobody was wearing a flannel shirt. Nobody was drinking a beer. Nobody wanted to talk very much about who they voted for, either.

I was armed with a clipboard and a confident wave because, as Michael Keaton said in "The Paper," a clipboard and a confident wave will get you into anything. But no matter how confidently I waved, a lot of people wouldn't tell me who they voted for. Unless "None of Your Business" was added to the ballot at the last minute. He would have carried Polling Place 128.

Thankfully, there were exceptions.

A friendly woman named Peggy Spicer noticed me and my clipboard and seemed all too willing to talk.

"When you come out," I said.

"It's not like I'm going to change my mind," she said with a smile wider than the Mississippi River, on which her native St. Louis was built.

Then I did my first -- and only -- entrance poll of the day.

I would learn that Peggy, 80 years young, was planning to vote for Barack Obama, which I found interesting -- but not nearly as interesting as her having introduced Joe Garagiola to his wife, Audrie. Peggy was a cashier at the old Arena roller skating rink in Forest Park on the western edge of St. Louis. Audrie was the organist. Joe was a catcher for the Redbirds.

Unlike her fellow seniors who wanted nothing to do with my clipboard and confident wave, Peggy Spicer thanked me for talking to her.

Across the street from the mobile home park clubhouse/polling place, a diminutive women with gray-black bangs laying flat across her forehead motioned me over. She said she was 85 and her name was Josephine, although people in the mobile home park called her Jodie. She was tending to a couple of cats who looked well fed.

Jodie told me she has six cats. Those two weren't hers. They belonged to people in the mobile home park who had died. She just feeds them ... well, because somebody has to do it.

Jodie wanted to feed me, too. She invited me in for lunch. When I told her I had to get back to the office, she offered me a bottle of water.

Then, like Peggy Spicer, she thanked me for talking to her.

Not everybody I spoke with at the mobile home park was living on a fixed income. Melanie Rodrigues, a 35-year-old day care worker, exited the polling place with an exuberant look on her face. When I asked her question No. 9 on my clipboard -- Can you describe your mood today? -- she said it was one of the happiest days of her life.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"I voted for the first time."

The early returns wouldn't start coming in for a couple of hours. But for me, it already had been an Election Day to remember, thanks to those two delightful old women and a much younger one who, unlike so many of us, didn't take her right to vote for granted.

THEN:

The first time I heard somebody talk about the Electoral College, I thought it was a small school back East, like Lehigh or Lafayette, that wasn't very good in football.

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