Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'll Have What She's Having - Dispatches from the Voter Registration Front

After being inspired several weeks ago by my friend Joy Rousso to put our after-work bicycle rides to good purpose by using them as an opportunity to register voters, I decided to add a bold "Register to Vote Here" sign to my B.O.B. Yak trailer (above). Within a few days I resolved to keep the trailer attached to my bike all the time, not just when I was running errands that required it. Like a workplace photo ID dangling from a lanyard or a t-shirt proclaiming support for some political cause or other, it's easy to forget that such things that one "wears" habitually can attract the attention of people passing by.

I happened to be having lunch on the patio of my favorite local coffee shop (and wine bar) Java Vino the other day where I had left my bike-trailer combo sitting in the parking lot, a few feet away from the sidewalk that borders N. Highland Avenue. While I was preoccupied on my laptop, responding to a backlog of email, an older woman walked up to the patio, approached a young woman sitting near me - whom I took to be a new or infrequent customer, since I didn't know her - and struck up a brief conversation, one that I did not overhear. She then took a seat at a table near the door, without ever entering the shop. I assumed that she was waiting for a friend to arrive and join her for coffee or a bite to eat.

Java Vino has a menu of sandwiches, salads and pastries, but, like most coffee shops, doesn't offer table service. The wait-staff does occasionally make the rounds, busing tables and bringing out orders placed at the counter that take time to prepare. About 10-minutes after the older woman arrived, Dianna, a long-time Java Vino barista, was clearing dishes left on out on the patio, and, having noticed that the woman had been sitting for a while but had not yet ordered, asked her, "Is there something I can get for you? Coffee? Something to eat?"

"No thank you," the older woman responded, "I'm just waiting to register to vote."

Without missing a beat, Dianna began to send her my way, while I, having picked up on what was being discussed, was already dashing to my trailer to retrieve a clipboard, a pen and a blank registration form.

It seems that the older woman - who had just moved to Atlanta from Dallas - had noticed the sign on my trailer as she was walking down the street and had approached the young woman, the one whom I didn't recognize, to ask how she could go about registering to vote. Not knowing me or of my voter registration efforts, they conferred and came to the conclusion that voter registration must be a service offered by the coffee shop to its customers.

I, of course, had forgotten how an unattended bike and trailer with a "Register to Vote Here" sign on it, could be confusing people passing by a retail establishment.

Fortunately for me the older woman was a patient person, one committed to become a registered voter in her new hometown.

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