Gas rationing, odd-even as Obama-Romney race chugs to finish line

RENE PASTOR

I still remember the gas rationing in Manila when Pinoys used gas coupons like trading chips to barter for services or exchange favors with their relatives. After Hurricane Sandy hit and electric power was knocked out in New Jersey, the gas stations in the area began running out of juice.

The governor put in gas rationing and put up a system of odd-even for when you can fill up. Since this is November 4, plates ending in even numbers were the only ones allowed to stay in line at gas stations. Four burly Rahway police officers firmly told those with odd numbers on their cars they have to move on.

For the most part, they did. No fuss. No areglo to sneak in by slipping the cops a US$20.

You could put in $30 max worth of gas. No credit or debit cards. Everything cash. I never saw so many gas attendants running around holding thick wads of cash in their hands.

In 36 hours, the citizens of the richest nation on the planet will choose their next leader after what had been easily the most expensive election campaign in history. For many parts of New Jersey, we may have to do it without taking a bath because the power or the heat is still out.

The power is back in my building but the combined telephone, Internet and TV service provided by Comcast remains out. Calling their customer service number (outsourced to God knows where) is an exercise where you are left muttering “Just shoot me now.”

I asked the guy with a British sounding accent that sounded like a cross between an Australian and a South African, do you have a ballpark estimate when the TV is coming back? We’ve got guys working 24/7, he says, but no idea when they will get it fixed. This, from the same company which vowed to get the service back the minute power came back on. Duh.

So I wind up following the election on my cell phone along with my messages, the weather and school schedules. Most of the time, I read up on Huffington Post which is easy to read on the phone screen.

I checked my sample ballot and found I am going to vote in a place called Golden Age Towers on 220 E. Milton Avenue. I have been assigned to Ward No. 4, District 2.

My aunt, who is a senior citizen, said officials normally put elections in the buildings where there are a lot of retired people because they are the ones who volunteer heavily for poll duty.

First-time voter

The sample ballot containing instructions where I am to vote arrived in the mail about a week-and-a-half ago. The voting precinct is located about 200 meters from my apartment and across from Rahway city hall. In the summer, that would be a great walk because the river would curve around the back of some apartment buildings and people would picnic on the berm overlooking the water.

On a cold, blustery November morning, that could be a painful walk at 7 am with the sun barely peaking above the horizon. The bitter cold feels like being stabbed in different parts of your body. You may be bundled up like an Eskimo, but you certainly feel it.

For people in the Garden State, it has been a ho-hum election. Jersey is considered a safe state for Barack Obama. That’s the reason why neither candidate has campaigned here heavily (think battleground Ohio or Florida in comparison).

In fact, the only time Obama has been seen here in this election season is when he hopped the Marine One chopper to look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy with New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie.

The voting precinct is open from 6 am to 8 pm. That’s 14 hours of what in the Philippines would be potential mischief. Here, there is no fear of dagdag-bawas. No indelible ink ruining your finger nails for weeks. And no armalite-wielding goons snatching the ballot boxes in the middle of the night while the lights go mysteriously out – hello Iligan or Maguindanao.

This is the first time I am voting and am a little giddy about going in there Tuesday morning and pressing that button. I voted for Cory Aquino in 1986 and Fidel Ramos in 1992. Now I am choosing between Obama and Mitt Romney.

I have a good idea who I am going to vote for because I think he is the better man. Tuesday is almost here. It cannot come soon enough. - Rappler.com