I Might Have Been the Last Person in America to Learn Who Won the Election
I just found out this morning. What the fuck, people?
With the election behind us, you're likely either finally breathing a sigh of relief or drinking yourself into a stupor as you prepare for the second American Civil War. However you're handling the election results, at least you know what they are. Imagine how much worse it would've been had this excruciating election cycle dragged on any longer. Imagine the ulcer you'd have formed if, while the fractured country started to put the pieces back together, you were kept in limbo, unaware of the results of the most important political contest of our lifetime. Imagine how much this week has sucked for me.
As I write this, I've just voted and am about to turn off notifications for all my texts, news apps, and social media accounts in an effort go as long as possible without learning who won the US Presidential election. Similar to abstract, knowledge-dependent games like "avoiding finding out the winner of the Super Bowl" or The Game (sorry), the premise is simple: try to live a (relatively) normal while avoiding the biggest news story in the world. The second I'm made aware of this information, I've lost.
4:00 PM PST
I'm preparing to skip town and camp in the desert for the night. This may seem dramatic to some of you, but I live in Los Angeles, a voting map completely devoid of redness. The entire east LA skyline will be lit up with fireworks if Hillary wins. Getting clear of the county line seems like the only way to keep myself in the dark.
My tent is all set up in a little patch of dirt just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. This could still be fun.
I'm too anxious to read the book I've brought so I'll just be drinking whiskey and watching a downloaded movie to pass the time.
I've no clue why I thought watching a documentary about Anthony Weiner would somehow calm my nerves about the election.
Photos by the author
A strong gust of wind has unstaked my tent and flipped it upside down onto me, rousing me from a restless sleep, so I'm starting the day with my world literally inverted. I have no choice but to take this as a harbinger of doom.
I need to kill more time before heading back to society (or the smoldering rubble of it) so I decide to catch an 11 AM screening of Doctor Strange at some desert town theater.
At the concession stand a tired-looking older Latina woman sells me a pretzel. I wonder if she's tired from a night of celebration, or a night of frightened escape planning. Or maybe she's just sluggish because she's working an underpaid service industry job and would rather be anywhere else?
Movie's over and it's time to make my way back home. I have a cat that needs food, even if I have to sneak through hordes of militias roaming the streets to get it to her.
I'm an hour outside of LA and there's a wall of traffic for miles heading east out of town. I'm one of the few cars on the road heading west. Like that scene in Independence Day, or the opening credits of The Walking Dead. Shit.
I remind myself that LA area traffic jams like this for no rhyme or reason every single day. This probably isn't some apocalyptic mass exodus.
Back home, one of the apartments in my building has a bunch of furniture sitting outside the front door. This might be a sign they're fleeing. Or they could just be cleaning the floor. Every banal little moment is pregnant with perceived meaning.
I have bottled energy that needs spending. The gym is off limits. TVs will be on everywhere. I make the risky decision to go for a run.
I can't chance overhearing stray bits of conversation or a cheeky sidewalk sandwich board spilling the beans so I keep my earbuds cranked to max volume and eyes low as I run through LA's young and hip neighborhoods.
I happen to glance at some graffiti that I don't understand. Is this a good omen or someone's impotent reaction to the news that bigotry had been voted into the oval office? And when did I start believing in omens?
Despite notifications for incoming communications being turned off, I've still had to send a few text here and there. My workaround has been to slightly cross my eyes and hold my phone at an angle to make words illegible while I fumble around iOS to open a blank message. This has mostly worked but unfortunately I've just seen one unopened message from a friend asking "you ok?" I try not to think too much about what this might mean.
Fuck, being trapped in my house with no internet is boring. Is my cat this bored every single day? I feel so guilty right now.
My friend (and fellow VICE writer) Mike Pearl is kind enough to have a quick beer with me. As the brainchild of this project, he both owes me the human contact and can be trusted to uphold the integrity of the mission.
After catching Mike up on what I've been doing and noticing, he gingerly points out that living in this Schroedinger's Election Results box I've built for myself is turning me into a Glenn Beck-esque conspiracy theorist, seeing patterns where none exist. Like how I assume every police siren I hear is on its way to a riot.
Once again, I'm alone at home and wired from anxiety. I smoke pot that, thanks to California's prop 64, may or may not now be legal in the state of California. If it's not legal, I have a medical card. If it is legal, it was totally recreational. I decide that, while looking up local ballot initiative results would technically be within the rules of this game, it seems against the spirit. Besides, I'm going to need some tiny gifts of good news to unwrap should the darkest timeline await me.
It's disgusting how programmed I am to reach for my phone and immediately check Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. when I wake. I've had to hurriedly squint and close out of those apps after mindlessly opening them far too many times these past few days.
Am I addicted to the internet or do I merely want what I can't have?
Really, though, I can't do the majority of my job without unfettered internet access so I start doing chores around my apartment to pass time.
I take my laundry down to my building's laundry room to discover it's under construction. Guess I'm venturing out to a laundromat.
From my peripheral vision, I see the laundromat TVs are on a news channel. I keep my eyes low and make sure the blurry blob of a person on the screen never comes into focus.
In an attempt at some much needed interpersonal connection, I try playing a multiplayer round of Battlefield 1. As soon as someone on my team starts using the n-word, I remember there's a huge overlap between his ilk and Trump supporters and turn off the game before he has a chance to reveal anything.
I try to nap and just end up feeling shitty that my privilege allows me to indulge in a game like this when there could very well be people fearing for their lives right now based on the results.
Today has been less filled with unease, but far more boring and lonely. I miss people. I hope I haven't pissed off anyone trying to reach me these past few days who isn't aware that I'm incommunicado.
I run to the grocery store to get some food. There's a dark cloud hanging over everyone inside that I'm possibly imagining. I'm really starting to get scared that Trump got elected.
In an attempt to remain Zen, I put my faith in Nate Silver and all the quants out there who were giving the W to Clinton, last I checked. The die is cast, no matter what I know or don't know, so why not use their cold, unbiased numbers as my rock in these trying times?
I'm ending this tomorrow at the VICE offices. I will have the results revealed to me first thing in the morning. This is no way to live.
I'm about to learn the results. I'm giddy with anticipation. I don't care which way this goes anymore, I'm just happy I get to return to society.
Fuck. I retract my previous statement.
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