[This is a syndicated post from the blog: Dear Seif.]
I wish I had an inspirational story to tell you about casting my vote in the first democratic presidential elections in Egypt. I wish I could tell you that I stood in a very long line of women with a clear conviction of the person I was going to elect… it would have sounded better!
After standing in the blazing sun for hours the last time I voted during parliamentary elections, I was totally prepared this time around. I got a bottle of water with me, packed some pretzels to share with my neighbors-in-waiting, and wore a loose white cotton shirt to deflect the heat.
Pulling up at the voting station, I was surprised to find no lines whatsoever; only a scattering of women coming out of the school. Although it was good news – no one craves standing in a long line in the heat – I was a bit disappointed. I was looking forward to brushing shoulders with women from different backgrounds and hearing what they had to say about our first true elections.
Standing near the gate was a TV reporter and a cameraman. The woman gave me a friendly smile and asked if she could interview me. I smiled back and said, “Thank you,” and walked passed her. Me talking about politics? I’d turn the interview into a comedy show! The fact is, Seifo, I didn’t know who I wanted to vote for up until today – the day I voted. I was very clear about who I didn’t want, but the rest… I kept shuttling back and forth between voting strategically in order to avoid those whom I did not want, and voting for the candidate that had a program that showed promise.
Inside the school, a female volunteer asked me for my voting number. She told me that I will need to wait as there was one woman ahead of me at my station. A few seconds later, the female volunteer shook her head and apologized to me, saying she was mistaken and that I should proceed immediately to another desk that was available. She apologized to me three times for keeping me waiting; waiting being a whole 30 seconds or so… I thought to myself, “Is this woman for real?” It amused me how polite and courteous everyone was. It’s refreshingly different.
In the voting “cubicle”, I took a moment to study the ballot, looking at the colored pictures of the candidates. “This is a historical moment,” I thought to myself. “Take a mental snapshot and remember this.” I found my pen passing by the candidate I had contemplated on voting for purely for strategic reasons, and placed a check beside the candidate I felt could lead Egypt in a better direction. I then placed the ballot in a clear box and graced my pinky finger with ink for the third time in the span of a year.
On my way out of the school, the same reporter asked me again, “Could I take a few minutes of your time for an interview?” Again, I shook my head and thanked her. She told me, “I insist! I really want to interview you!” I told her, “I’m shy,” and waved good bye to her.
That’s it. That was my voting experience. It took a total of 10 minutes including driving to and from the school. And now for the real wait… Will the candidate my parents and sister voted for win? Will the candidate my in-laws voted for win? Will the candidate my husband and I voted for win? I’m excited, I’m scared, I’m paranoid, I’m optimistic…
I hope that my next letter to you marking our fifth president is a positive one full of stories of inspiration and glory.
Your indigo-fingered mother, Rania