Coffee, with a hint of cake, is the smell of voting. Every election it wafts into the voting booths of my local polling station from dawn till dusk. You see, in Pittsburgh people throw bake sales at polling stations. You show up to vote for the state’s favorite son, or to prevent a crackpot from holding yet another elected office, and stay to grab a cup of coffee and chat with your poll workers.
Your poll workers, those loyal neighbors who man their stations every election, know their bake sale fare. On good years, they’ll direct you to pick up some pumpkin loaf. In bad years, with a shake of the head, they’ll tell you that the coffee’s all that’s left and add, in a lowered tone, that it’s been on all day. Of course, your poll workers have lots more to discuss with you – how the family is doing, who else has been so far, and which politicians handed out material in this nonseasonal weather. Chatting aside, they usher you to your voting booth, and step back to let the magic happen.
Inside your booth, which also smells of the bake sale coffee, you vote. You make your choice, and have your say in democracy. After double-checking your selection, and with a final hope that this election proves good for the commonwealth, you submit your ballot. With a cherry wave to the poll workers and best wishes for a good election, you’re ready to stop by the bake sale.
You can have your democracy and eat cake too.