For the second time since I voted, I saw the man who helped me with my touch machine at election time. A big bear of a man, a white senior citizen, oozing friendliness and goodwill.
This time, in the drugstore, I decided to say hello. "Did you work at the polls?" I asked. "Yes," he said, "for early voting." "I thought you looked familiar," I said.
"Did you see me in the newspaper?"
"No, I saw you at the polls."
"You don't read the newspaper?"
"No. My husband does."
"I said some things I shouldn't have."
"Like what? That you were happy with how things went?" I smiled.
"I said 'We're no longer a Southern state.'"
I stared at him silently, uncomprehending. "What do you mean, 'we're no longer a Southern state?'"
"We're no longer a Southern state," he said regretfully. "Not like Kentucky. Or Tennessee. And Virginia--Virginia's no longer a Southern state." He elaborated, allowing as how he didn't like what had gone on with the election. No racist language was used, yet I was troubled by the sentiments implied.
I could sense my face becoming guarded, as if in a poker game. I looked at him blankly; disappointed, regretting I'd initiated conversation.
He complained of people going to the polls in droves simply to vote Obama and a straight Democratic ticket.
I stared; a little surprised that he still didn't get it. "That's what I did," I said. "Well, I voted for some Judges."
It became clear that while I had assumed he was a Democrat; he assumed I was Republican.
Then I remembered. My candidate won. I can afford to be gracious.
We got into a discussion about acne medicine.
And I realized I still liked him.
"Welcome back to North Carolina," he said as he headed toward the cash register.
As I walked away, he called out: "Forget everything I said."
I smiled. I can afford to be gracious.