Not so long ago, as I voted in a national election, I witnessed the passing of an era.
Now, if you think I'm going to get all political on you, just calm right down.
I voted on the very day of the election as I always do when I am not on the road. I made the short, green walk to the American Legion Hall, the granite house-like structure right across from Academy Springs Park. The lady who has known me since I was a child asked me for my driver's license.
(Again, no — this is not a tirade about voter I.D. laws. Now quit interrupting.)
I handed the nice poll worker my I.D. which she inserted into the mouth of an astonished looking, license-sucking robot who chewed on it until my bar code could be translated into the binary language that could be burped through the air to a building in Atlanta where it would be confirmed that I am who I am. When all was digested the robot spat my license back out. The poll worker (who accessorized with blue rubber gloves) handed it back to me. I wiped my license on my shirt and returned it to my wallet.
The process was a technological wonder but not a process for me to wonder at. No, my wonder had faded as technology replaced the book.
The book being the big book of registered voters in which each name had been carefully and dutifully rendered by hand in perfect school-teacher penmanship, which was for the first time that year, absent from the voters table.
Rather than being all ga-ga about yet another new technology, I found myself missing that big book. In years past, I have made my way to our courthouse to look for family and property records, all the while marveling at all the handwritten, leather bound books that represent decades and decades of the county's probate and property, death and taxes.
I have always thought fine handwriting to be a noble and beautiful thing.
This is something I noted in my youth when I turned 15 and got that learner's permit. One of the three legal forms of identification I presented to get my permit was my name written on the day I was born in my grandmother's hand in the family Bible. No kidding. Yes, easily faked, but who would present such a thing to the Patrolwoman issuing licenses at a Georgia courthouse in 1974?
Besides, who of my generation had anything like our grandmother’s handwriting?
Of course, penmanship was highly emphasized when I was a child in Mrs. Ida Davis's classroom. Mrs. Davis did not believe in ballpoint pens (although they existed). No, we were all required to purchase one of those 75-cent Schaffer fountain pens with the "washable blue" ink. Included on our list of required school supplies were Q-Tips and vials of chlorine bleach; these were funneled into medicine bottles by our mamas. This was so we could "erase" our ink mistakes.
And now, boys and girls, it's time for a bit of disclosure: I tapped most of this little essay lying in bed, on my iPhone, before finally rising at the crack of ten and making my way to the computer with my coffee and Cheerios.
Charmless, I know. But, um... I cannot read my own writing.
That's all I have to say right now during this week fraught with political portent.
I am raising my coffee mug. Here's to all of us and these decisions we render.
(Remember, a proper toast is a prayer)
A native of Covington GA, Andy Offutt Irwin is a nationally renowned storyteller, humorist, singer, songwriter, musician, whistler and human noise maker. Andy’s take on small town life has resulted in 10 albums, 1000s of shows, and many awards, including the 2013 Oracle Circle of Excellence from the National Storytelling Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.