Early this afternoon, I set out on foot to vote. I left my back door, turned on my iPhone stopwatch, and commenced counting my steps.
Walking along Rosewood Boulevard, I passed under jacaranda and ficus trees, Norfolk pines and Deodar cedars. The magnolias and brugmansias were in bloom. Azaleas, daisies, calla lilies and roses lined my way. I counted my steps by 10.
At Step Number 526 I spotted signs with black arrows. After 5 minutes 26.07 seconds, I had arrived at my polling place in Larchmont Village: a neighbor’s garage.
In the eighties, I lived in Greenwich Village for eight years — jostled my way through maddening crowds along nearly nature-less streets. After eight years here, I still cannot believe the sweetness of life in Larchmont.
I was about to make some new friends.
Corry Netherly caught my eye at around Step Number 500: a lady in a vibrant, orange tweed coat, with a plaid scarf tied about her neck. Ms. Netherly, 92, is Dutch. She has lived in the US for 66 years, and on Plymouth Boulevard for 43. She worked as a travel agent.
After she cast her vote, I asked about her coat.
“Let me tell you the story of this coat,” she said, her eyes twinkling.
“I was in the back seat of a friend’s car and this coat was on the floor. He had bought it at a garage sale for someone, only she didn’t care for it. Well, I did. The label is from Bullock’s Wilshire, which closed in 1992! He bought it at a garage sale for three dollars!”
Ms. Netherly and her dog, Doesika, a Yorkie — the name means ‘darling’ in Russian, and he, too, was in a stylish coat — had walked over to hand in her absentee ballot.
Paula Garran brought her son, Lucien, 4, to the polling place.
“I brought Lucien even though he stayed home sick today,” she said. “I wanted him to see what it’s like.”
Ms. Garran, who is from Argentina, and Lucien both got I Voted stickers. This was not, however, Lucien’s first time at an election. He also “voted” last November, in the presidential race.
Three workers sit at the table and await the voters.
“I’m from Cuba,” Frank Rey de Perea says. “I’ve been in the US since 1962.” He has worked this poll before; voters know him.
“You’re not wearing your Looney Toons shirt this time,” a woman in line says to Mr. Rey de Perea.
“No, but I’m wearing my dessert shirt,” he says. Jello and CoolWhip insignia decorate his sweatshirt.
So far, turn out today is a surprise.
“We’ve had 98 so far,” says Anna Gonzales, another poll worker. “A good turn out for a Municipal Election.” Ms. Gonzales, from El Salvador, has resided in the US for 34 years. She has been a poll worker for 18.
“It’s a long day, but I like helping people,” she says.
Between them sits Ms. Francis Rey de Perea.
“They are the only father-daughter poll workers I know of,” Ms. Gonzales says. Ms. Rey de Perea seems shy. “My daughter has been doing this for six or seven years,” Mr. Rey de Perea says. She shrugs and smiles.
On the table, are the rosters of residents, lists of residents, polling paraphernalia — sharp red pencils and official City Clerk rulers. Stacks of Official Sample Ballots booklets. In English and Korean. On the wall behind the workers hang an array of gardening clippers.
Poll workers attend a training class before each election. The class lasts for about 3 hours. Poll workers are paid workers. It’s dark when they start and it’s dark when the poll closes. At eight, they take down the signs and break down the booths. The home owner/poll host brings out a lamp from the house so they can tabulate the votes and prepare their report.
But it’s still early. Voters arrive at the garage by foot, by bike, by car, on skate board, or pushing new-fangled strollers.
When Alice Attarian arrives, Mr. Rey de Perea calls out to her.
“Alice, how come you’re not working today?”
“I am going to the airport to get my fiance.”
Once Ms. Attarian had cast her ballot, we started to talk. We walk.
She is of German-Jewish descent, and doesn’t know exactly where or when she was born. She has lived and traveled all over the world, and on Beverly Boulevard for over 30 years. She almost always works the polling station.
“I always take the time. I love people.”
Ms. Attarian has grown great grandchildren and shows me pictures.
“I am a busy, busy bee! I do arts and crafts-plus. Life is beautiful, honey. But you have to know how to live it.”
Our paths part. We hug and wave good-bye. Walking home, I marvel at our internationality. On Rosewood midday, there are more dogs than cars, and more birds than people. By far. In fact, the din of birds was intense, distracting.
Maybe the birds are having a convention or election of their own? Who knows?
Devon O’Brien is an actress, playwright, screenwriter, her essays have appeared in Vogue and on The Huffington Post. She is the founder of FeatherInc.com – offering essay assistance to college applicants and consulting for writers of all feathers or type.