As I said on Tuesday, I watched the returns from the campus pub until about about 1:30 (right after many of the New England results came in from the 7:30 closing of polls). The TVs were tuned to CNN, everyone was drinking like they were watching a football game, and whenever a graphic was shown, the entire room broke out in cheers or boos. Not a single person was listening to any of the commentary, aware of any of the explanations, or really even paying attention to whether the shown graphics were from 2012, 2008 or just predicted 2012 (which led to lots of amusing ‘arbitrary’ cheering). Every time we got within 10 seconds of a poll closing, the room erupted in a count down (complete with fist-pumping) that rivaled any New Year’s party I’ve ever attended.
Overall, it was too crowded, too hot, and too full of many people with no interest in the outcome other than the game of it all. I overheard some people sitting near me hoping that the results came to a tie, so they could see how the process looked as Congress elected our next President – “wouldn’t that be cool?” I had to jokingly defend our great nation, saying, “this isn’t just a game, people! This actually matters.” I immediately felt like an idiot for getting involved at all slash looking so nationalistic, so I followed it up with a big smile, a laugh, and some shared popcorn. (I was once told that despite my best efforts, I do suffer from a classic nervous giggle… I’ll guess that this was a prime application.) At any rate, by 1:30 am, I was sweaty, my legs were stiff because I was sitting in a corner of a couch with my legs tucked under me and hadn’t moved since 8:30 pm, and I was ready to go.
I left the bar (with difficulty, maneuvering through the crowd) and found a queue outside waiting to get in. Amazing! Even at 2 am, people were waiting to come in and see the results (or just excited to have an excuse to procrastinate from our midterm papers, but I’m hoping it’s the former). I ran into some friends who were in the queue and we trekked around the neighborhood for a while looking for another open bar. When we couldn’t find one, we split up to watch from our respective homes.
Once there (after an amusing bus ride where the driver very enthusiastically enjoyed hits from 2000), I walked into the common room to find a completely opposite scene. There were about 6 people hanging out on couches, surrounding an empty pizza box and a few bottles of wine. There was a computer jerry-rigged into the TV that was streaming MSNBC, and during commercial breaks we’d switch back to CNN. There were many laughs, jokes, a few serious conversations, and much debate as the Senators started being announced, as the swing states percentages were tallied, and as we got closer and closer to the “decision that would shape our nation’s future” (as you already know the UK called it).
After Obama was announced, we enthusiastically waited for the inevitable speeches. Somehow, the same group of us got through the whole night – vevuzula and all. At various points, others would drift in and drift out, but through it all, the 6 Americans stayed stuck to the TV, watching as something so far away felt so immediate. We had talked in my globalization class Tuesday afternoon about time-space compression, the difference between space and place, and whether there was such a thing as time-place compression. I argued that no matter how hard I paid attention, I’d never be in the same place (the States) as I watched these returns, even if I was in the same space (along the lines of a global public sphere — Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, etc.) Having lived through it a few hours later, I think I stick with my argument. It was fascinating to watch it all from London, but it will never feel the same as watching it from home. Not better or worse, just a different experience – one I’ll always remember.
The building’s staff came in at 7am to see if we’d made it through, and encouraged us all to go to bed. Instead, I headed to a 2-hour lecture and crashed at noon. Sorry this post is a few days late, but Wednesday will forever be a bit of a lost zone between naps/groggy awake time/reading for lectures.
As a final aside, today in my stats lecture, we talked about polls conducted last week to predict the US election, and how the effects of Hurricane Sandy were so strong that many polling organizations had to suspend these final polls. Apparently (we haven’t gotten there yet), there is a way to adjust data to account for most overpolled/ underpolled populations. In this instance, however, the group of people in New Jersey, New York and other impacted states is so large that they couldn’t get statistically accurate data while excluding this group (due to lack of power, decreased access to phones/internet, etc.). Interesting.