Also known as, Mixed Feelings.
So, today has been a bizarre day for me, doubly so because the Inauguration happened right in the middle of it.
This morning I had to get up early before class, because I’d left my textbook in my apartment, but I’d slept in my family’s house. I’m still in the middle of moving; last night was supposed to be my official first night on my own, but, as I discovered when I brought all my stuff over yesterday, the electricity wasn’t on! I’d called the power company a few days ago, but it seems I didn’t actually pay at that time, probably since I couldn’t do it with the customer service rep I’d been talking to.
So last night I tried to use their phone system to make a payment. At first it didn’t think my account existed, but eventually it listened to me. I had to keep starting over, since it would ask me for something I didn’t know, and I’d take too long to look it up, and it’d hang up on me. (I also hit the wrong button a few times). I made it through my 11-digit account number, my 10-digit contact phone numer, my 5-digit zip code, the amount I wanted to pay, and half of the credit card number when I fumbled the phone and accidentally hung up. I called in again, got all the way to the amount to pay when it informed me that I’d accessed the account too many times, and couldn’t use the phone or internet systems again.
Anyway, at this point yesterday, business hours were closing so I just brought the cheese and tofu to my parents’ house to refrigerate it, and called it a day. My mom said she’d try the system again in the morning (since the thought it’d reset by then, probably), and I played video games with the boys.
Which brings us to this morning, with me driving to my apartment with my gloves on because of the cold, and running into my dark apartment to find my books. I managed to make it to class on time, which honestly kind of surprised me, and then we had a quiz and I did well, which also kind of surprised me, and then I headed to the CSCE building to talk to my mom, and as I jogged in out of the cold, I spotted in the corner of my eye a crowd of people around a television.
A black woman with a huge, adorable bow on her hat was singing, and I could almost feel my heart begin to race when I realized it was Obama’s inauguration. I saw Biden sworn in, and I listened to the musicians after (desperately trying (and failing) to blog via my phone!), and then I saw Obama sworn in and nearly lost it right there, and then he gave his speech, and he acknowledged that some Americans are Muslim, and some are even non-believers, and yeah, I teared up! Just a bit!
I was just absolutely unable to keep from grinning and only sort of able to keep from crying; I don’t know how many other students were just standing around in the lobby, because I was just absolutely transfixed. I have some pretty serious doubts about Obama, but every time I hear him speak, I come away feeling so hopeful. And there’s a part of me that wants to resist that because usually what he says doesn’t actually address my concerns, but there’s also a part of me that just wants to say, fuck that! It’s so nice to have, for the first time, a president who doesn’t make me feel embarassed when he speaks.
And it IS the first time, for me. George Bush was the first president I can remember. Oh, sure I was alive during other presidencies, but it wasn’t until after Bush was elected that I looked at my history book list of presidents and asked, “Who is my president now?”
And the answer, for me, has always been Bush. I wonder if that might not be part of Obama’s draw with us first-time voters– we’re eighteen, which means we were ten when Bush was elected, which means Bush has been our president forever, in that teenage “defined by my own memory” way, which is factually incorrect, but emotionally so, so true.
So yeah, I cried, when I looked at Barack Obama, and said to myself, he is my president now. And I think this is going to be my moment, my “I remember where I was when…,” since I don’t remember where I was for 9/11, or any of the other events that have changed the lives of the people around me. My parents remember the moon landing, and the Berlin wall, and any number of other things which, no matter how much they tell me about them, will never have the same emotional intensity for me. But now, I have Obama. And that’s a good feeling.
And then, after what felt like a nearly transcendant moment, I was back in my life again, with the Arabic homework and the electricity payments. I talked to my mom, and guess how long I’ve been locked out of the phone and online payment options? No, really, guess!
Despite the fact that NOT ONCE had I actually made it through to make a payment, I apparently used their system so much that I can’t be allowed to use it again for a month.
Since it’s my first month, and I don’t have a bill yet, I can’t just mail the money in. (No idea why, but they won’t let me.) And none of the four customer service call centers I ended up talking to could let me make the payment through them. So instead, I had to drive down to Mountain Man Supplies & Pawn!
I felt really, really weird going to a pawn shop to pay my electricity bill. I’d only learned the week before that apparently people sell stolen goods in pawn shops (?) and, never having been to one, somehow Pawn Shops had started to represent, in my head, everything that’s scary and Other about people who (unlike me) have to look at prices when they shop. (I mean, I’ll check, sometimes, but it’s a habit I’m still in the process of learning.) It’s an impulse I am fighting against, but I’ve grown up with a lot of privilege and somehow a whole pile of that unexamined privilege ended up looming at me from the prospect of A Pawn Shop.
I found myself immediately cataloguing everything expensive on my person, and I gave in to the impulse to hide the laptop, GPS, TI-83 calculator, and gameboy that were all hanging out on my passenger seat. When I first entered the shop, I was terrified, possibly because there were an alarming number of guns for sale, but all I did was say I was there to pay my bill, and a friendly woman came up to help, and it all went completely smoothly. It wasn’t some kind of hive of scum and villainy, or whatever it was I was expecting. It actually smelled really nice, like freshly-cut wood. One of my favourite oldies songs was on the radio.
When the woman helping me went on to say “when you pay here every month…” I did have a moment where I bristled, like, “How dare you take me for the sort of person who pays her electricity bill at A Pawn Shop!” but then I was like, “WTF, eloriane. That makes no sense,” and overall, it wasn’t bad. I’m really curious to find out (next month) how easy the website is to use; if it’s no bother, then it’s probably not worth the gas to drive to save the $1 fee, but if it’s as contorted and terrible as the phone system, well…I might continue to pay my bills at A Pawn Shop.
All in all, then, a weird day. Stress, transcendent hope, and a battle with my own privilege. Honestly, not a bad way to start out on a new presidency.
So, here’s to Number Forty-Four! Hurray!