CINCINNATI, Ohio — It's always fun to feel like the most popular kid in school. And Ohioans have been prom king/quarterback/class president for much of 2012. Between them, President Obama and Mitt Romney have visited the Buckeye state more than 70 times during the presidential campaign.
My snail mail, email, voicemail and television screens have been buried under an avalanche of political ads during a presidential and congressional runs that has cost the candidates and their surrogates $6 billion.
But I couldn't do it this year. I'm a voter. I've voted in every election since I turned 18 and there's something heart-stirring about walking into the local Presbyterian church where I normally vote and seeing my neighbors proudly affix their "I Voted" sticker to their shirts.
I kept reading that Ohio would be this year's Florida as far as possibly deciding the entire election. In fact, some experts predict that the very county I live in, Hamilton, could hold the key to the White House. So, knowing I'd be out of town on Tuesday (and refusing to send in an absentee ballot because of my love of the in-person process) and despite the bone-chilling weather on Sunday, I stood in line to vote.
When I arrived at the Hamilton County Board of Elections at around 3:30, I could see the enormous line wound around the building and stretched nearly four city blocks. When I asked the poll volunteer how long it might take he cheerfully predicted, "I don't know, about an hour and a half?" I could do that, no problem.
Within minutes, I was being offered fresh sandwiches, bottles of water, granola bars, bags of chips and all manner of snacks to keep me motivated while I waited. I brought a Sunday New York Times that I finished an hour into my wait. A man in an Obama mask worked up and down the line hamming it up with the crowd in his best Barack voice. I made friends with the woman ahead of me, who I recognized from my gym, and who had come down to vote after her hot yoga class was canceled. She joked about how despite sharing a name with the first lady, she didn't see why people keep telling her she looks like Michelle Obama. (She did, a little bit.)
We had plenty of time to chat. Once 90 minutes passed, we realized we'd gone barely a block. I looked up at one point and civil rights icon and former Congressman John Lewis was making his way down the line, grabbing hands and thanking voters for showing up. "Thank you, brother," he said to me, putting his leather gloved-hand in mine and making me feel special.
Three hours in, the sun began to go down and volunteers came out with fresh pizza from Donato's, hot cider, coffee and hot chocolate. Two young boys with shoulder-length dreadlocks ran up and down the blocks picking up garbage and entertaining the weary waiters with cartwheels and round-offs. At the four-hour mark fatigue set in and as I craned to look I could see the doorway to the polling place was still half a block off.
I can't tell you that no one gave up and left in a pique of frustration. But I was near the back of the line and I can honestly say that I didn't see a single voter pack it in before they reached the heavenly warmth of 824 Broadway. (I will admit that I cheated at one point and asked not-that-Michelle to hold my place while I dashed across the street to a gay bar called On Broadway to fortify my frozen bones with a shot of Jim Beam. What I also got was some probing questions about who I was voting for and sassing from the three guys holding down the corner spot nearest the window who'd been watching the voting spectacle all afternoon.)
I made some new friends along the way and when we finally hit the blast of steam heat pouring out of the board of elections we were damn near family for having survived together. We got our second wind and were shushed a few times by election's officials after bumping frozen fists and letting out whoops of joy as we wedged into the tightly turned rope lines that would lead us to the promised land.
As I filled in my ballot, I thought about the several points at which I almost gave up. (Did I mention that my incredibly patient, elderly mother was sitting in my freezing car the whole time because we were supposed to go to visit my dad's grave to honor his birthday?) "I'm so sorry for making you wait this long," I said to her after sprinting back to the car and cranking up the heat sometime after 8 p.m.
"It's okay," she responded. "I was just worried about you in the cold. I knew you wouldn't come back until you voted. I know how important it is."
I hope she's right.
Stick with MTV News all Election Day for results, analysis and reports from Chicago, Boston and New York until a winner is declared. Share your voting stories by tweeting @MTVNews with the hashtags #GoVote or #IVoted!