doing some reflecting at the end of the world
Hi friends, it’s me again! How is your election day going? You getting anything done? Are you voting? Working at the polls? Are you drinking already?
Or are you thinking about where you were four years ago? That’s what I’m doing.
Four years ago I was 24. I was working at what I thought was a dream job at a legacy magazine. I had a little Hillary Clinton mug from Fishs Eddy on my desk at One World Trade Center, I had voted absentee for president in Pennsylvania, and on November 8, I showed up at work for my first election war room. I felt pretty confident that everything was unimpeachably good, or at least not regularly terrible.
Except there were red flags everywhere, and I had clearly just been too naive to see them. For one, when we convened for a little news meeting that afternoon, I learned that we had no plan in place for a Trump victory. Nobody, it seemed, was going to cover the Trump party in midtown. Everyone we had on assignment was heading to the Javits Center for what we all presumed would be a victory party well into the night. Surely Donald Trump wouldn’t win. I can’t speak for everyone else in the room, but it seemed like we all didn’t even consider the possibility. On a more macro level, the Clinton campaign hadn’t spent so much time in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which were, yes, traditional Democratic strongholds, but as we know now, they ended up being carried by Trump. We were hurtling toward disaster and also trying to figure out which fast-casual spot in Brookfield Place we were going to order dinner from.
I feel like my story is not dissimilar from everyone else’s stories from newsrooms that evening, but it bears repeating because it feels like there’s a lesson in how utterly blindsided we were by the whole thing, and not to negate any responsibility I had as a junior reporter, but the fact that we whiffed it felt like it came from the top down. Like management maybe didn’t really see the election for what it was. Like it really was a game to some people. I guess it was foolish to have been expecting much more.
Anyway, I don’t remember much between the hours of 4 and 7 pm. I guess we ordered burgers from Umami Burger. Mine got cold before I could eat it and the NYTimes election needle was causing me to lose my appetite anyway. At several points I wondered, why am I here? I cover tech. Actually, why are any of us here? But I couldn’t really say that. So I waited until the digital director of our website did. Around 9 pm when it became clear things were really not gonna go in a direction that we’d planned for he gave us a speech about the new era we’d be reporting on, and what it was like covering the Iraq War at the nascent blog he wrote for in the early 2000s, and told us to go home. I left and got on the 6 and went uptown to hang out with a friend of a friend I’d met at my roommate’s birthday party a few weeks prior, who kept telling me I was overreacting and I couldn’t possibly know what would happen yet so there was no use worrying about it. I left at 3:30 am after watching the Trump victory speech and decided I probably didn’t need to see much more of him.
I went home and slept for a few hours and woke up to the sky spitting rain and texted Max, who had slept on a couch at his office, and I think I said something stupid like is anything going to be okay? And Max was like, no, obviously not. I remember getting on the N train and everyone was quiet. It was Bess’s first day at work. I don’t think I said a word to anyone all day. She came and sat at her desk next to me and probably thought I was the most miserable person in the world, which to be fair I definitely was that day. Those days I logged on early and logged off early but I left super super early that day, I think at like 3, and I went to a shitty dive bar downtown to drink with the guy I was dating who had overnight become a socialist and also wanted to go look at houses in Canada immediately. I just felt numb, I felt the same kind of catatonic numbness I feel this week. I couldn’t let my mind consider anything beyond maybe a few nanoseconds ahead of the present because if I had to imagine a future of any kind I’d lose my shit. I never went back to that dive bar. I think it’s maybe closed now.
When I think about four years ago, it’s why I can’t allow myself to be too excited today. I’m not holding my breath, but I’d welcome any degree of change at this point.
Today I talked to Kate (alongside Caroline Calloway—iconic!) about my election day plans online. I also wrote about why I can’t stand brands doing voter activism. Last week I wrote about Allie Rowbottom’s memoir about her family’s Jell-o fortune and my family’s Jell-o salad recipe. The week before I got mad about Zoom Dick. At some point I also interviewed Michael Imperioli about the Sopranos. There will be more writing in the future!