“ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA” was emblazoned across the top of the TV set. All of the usual political correspondents, and TV personalities were atwitter, and getting punch drunk as their dawn to however- long-it-takes talkathon intensified into the after supper hours. There were entrance polls and exit polls and on the scene interviews with voters at their polling places. There were lots and lots of reporters interviewing each other. There were screaming graphics after screaming graphics after more screaming graphics being thrown around like beach balls of the nation sorted by states, counties, districts, demographic groups and past election results. The net result of millions of words and trillions of gigabytes of lightening fast communication was that as of seven o clock, David Wells and Brian Taspeli were tied.
In a hotel suite in Denver, David, Elaine and Max got their information the same way everyone else did, via the news network. Kyle and two dozen excited staffers milled about talking, texting and twitting with a network stationed in key districts around the country.
When the polls closed on the east coast, Pennsylvania came into the Wells column, due in part to the home state of Elaine and Max effect.
There were still too few districts reporting yet in Florida to make any predictions. Most of the other eastern states went as they always did. The team on the news network all talked about the criticality of Florida. Wells had to win either Florida or Ohio, or both according to their calculations. “No shit Sherlock,” Kyle said to the television before he switched right back to juggling multiple electronic devices. Kyle and the team in the room had other sources in Florida, but they were also indicating that it was still too close to call.
Then Indiana went the other way, to Taspeli. Electoral votes were slightly in Taspeli’s favor at that point, but the night was still young.
“Jesus,” said Elaine. “How can you stand it? The tension is enough to snap a person like a dry twig.”
“You control your breathing,” said David.
“Oh,” said Elaine. She began to try it and it helped.
Kyle came over to gleefully tell Wells that he was leading in one of the most important districts in Florida according to the exit polls. David nodded. “Good,” he said, but he knew that it was but one of dozens of pieces that had to fall into place.
Max was furiously drumming his fingers on the arm of the couch and David reached across him to close his hand over Max’s. Max said, “Sorry.”
“It’s OK,” said David. Max got up and got busy snooping on what all the staffers were doing. His parents did not try to stop him.
Missouri was called. Another state for Wells. He was now ahead in Electoral votes. Max jumped and hooted, and a lot of the people in the room did the same. David couldn’t sit still anymore, even though he preferred to stay with Elaine and he began to circulate around the room. Elaine stayed on the couch. The leather felt like solid ground and the rest of the commotion felt like the inside of a thunderstorm, half a mile up.
Ohio stubbornly refused to yield any relevant information for nearly an hour, and by then her husband had won most of the Midwest as expected. Most of the West coast was already projected, by the strategists, to go to Taspeli although the assemblage of important personages on the TV couldn’t call it until the polls closed in another hour.
The room erupted into cheers when Florida was called solidly for David Wells. He now had a clear lead, unless Ohio went to Taspeli, and then it would be very close and probably come down to Colorado and New Mexico.
“There are voters right outside this hotel,” said Kyle. “You might still swing a few more votes,” referring to Colorado.
“I’ve done everything I can do,” said David. “It’s in the voters hands now.” He came back to sit with Elaine again, and Max followed him.
By the time the polls closed on the West Coast, Wells home state of Colorado had gone for him, which was by no means a foregone conclusion, and New Mexico had gone for Taspeli. No one worried about Hawaii or Alaska since they traditionally cancelled each other out. It all came down to Ohio. For another half hour, Ohio was a patchwork of mixed results.
“Somewhere in Ohio there is one waitress who is going to decide this election,” said Elaine. “I hope she knows what she’s doing.”
“Could be,” said David. “That’s America.”
Kyle yelled to the room that they had Ohio seconds before the TV announcer said, “We can now call the winner of the Presidential Election.”
David was bent with his hands on his thighs as though he was about to spring at the TV. Elaine was on her way to the bar to get a drink and spun around. Max was jumping around making the touchdown signal.