Man without an Election Day
(San Jose, Costa Rica)–It’s late in Costa Rica. I’m here to work. I am among a ragtag group of local Ticos, traveling poker players, and lost gringos who gave up on America a long time ago.
After the 15-hour workday, I collapsed in the only place I know here. It’s a hotel bar where a bunch of funny-looking guys play cricket on television, a bra-less woman (maybe or maybe not a hooker) hangs on a traveler, and a dozen or so people like me suck down Imperials and Coronas in an attempt to come down from a day jacked up on Costa Rican coffee and work.
My companions on this night, at least those that stuck with me for the two-hour exhalation, were a corporate-lawyer turned poker writer and a journalist turned rock and roll photographer turned poker photographer. We range in age from 32 to 48. We come from different parts of the country and have backgrounds that range from one side of the country to the other. We talked for a good long while about subjects ranging from housing prices to the human condition. We spoke briefly of Election Day. We never mentioned who we voted for before leaving home. It didn’t matter. We were Americans in a third world country on the most intense Election Day of our lifetimes.
Today was a unique day in our little microcosm. Normally, a three-day event like the one we’re covering would mean two 14 to 15 hour days followed by a day that could last from six to 14 hours. Due to the vagaries of things that nobody outside of the poker world cares about, our Tuesday looks rather short. We start at lunch and could be finished before dinner.
Our newly-found Costa Rican friends have offered to show us the city on our unexpected night off. We’ve not committed to anything. We’re barely sure what to do. A 3.5 hour flight away, our country and maybe our lives are about to change in a way we will not see again in our lifetimes. On the day this happens, we will be in a place called the Herradura, watching a bunch of people play cards. When the polls close in my adopted hometown, I may be finished with work and I am as torn as I can be. I have a chance to see an exotic foreign city (a chance I won’t get again anytime soon) or I can sit in my hotel room and watch CNN International. I still don’t know what I’ll do. Neither will feel right. Neither will feel whole. Neither will feel real.
I’m sure whatever I decide will end up being right. Even if it isn’t, I don’t have any choice. If I had my way, I’d be sitting with my wife and watching three channels at a time and experiencing this moment together. No matter which way the election goes, it will define America more than any election in my lifetime. I want to spend moment with my wife. It’s the only way it will feel real.
So, I will wake up in a few hours and do my job. It’s meaningless wrapped in trivia and it will happen alongside the first time in my life that I have truly believed in the power and truth of democracy. My work life compared to the life about which I actually care is such a stark contrast, I honestly wonder if I can sleep.
I think I’ll try. And I don’t think I’ll turn off CNN.
It’s the only thing that makes me feel at home.