Cali to Dubai: Elections from the Middle East
Someone was scheduled for 8 a.m. to do work in the apartment. It's women-only at the gym for the next 3 hours, so I research a place to have breakfast and watch the elections. I check Zomato, Dubai's Yelp, filtering for wifi and location. I settle on a place, Eggspectation, and re-download the CNN app I stopped using for lack of fresh content and fair news coverage. I open the app and am instantly frustrated by the bevy of articles offering opinions on the electoral race instead of...the electoral race. I don't care about your analysis show me the fuckin' scoreboard. When I find it, I see Trump is in the lead. Then, Hillary took California winning the advantage, meanwhile, FL is still single and other swing states were blushing red as I walk out the door.
When I get to the café, I double-check with the host that they have wifi (I've been duped before). I drop into a booth, flip open my computer which is at 27% and dying fast. My comp is a dinosaur of a MacBook from half a decade ago which we've stitched together with 3 replaced hard drives and a better processor. I continue to track results until battery is to 11% then shut it down and switch to my phone. Where I find (of course) that Google is the quickest way to answers. They're running a live side-by-side including which states are leaning where. I still have instincts to click refresh and do 2 or 3 times.
I crack open the menu, pick the first picture that looks appealing, and slap it shut. I order something called the high tower, a triple stack of pancakes with bacon between each layer, with English Breakfast tea. I frown when it arrives. Trump has taken the lead now and only needs another 26 to win. No longer able to sit, I pop up not sure where I'm going but knowing I need to see this with people, not pancakes. In this moment, I wish could be transported home. I want to feel connected with my community however it turns out, the buzzer-beater of the century or the sum of 47.6% of fears.
I walk down to the Hilton, figuring an international chain like this must have a TV. A bar/lounge where I can ask the man or woman with the remote for a personal favor. They explain since it's barely after 10 a.m. most places with a TV won't be open and they don't have one. I quickly turn to leave before the concierge admits he's watching the election on his computer behind the desk and offers me a peek. I take him up on his offer and nothing's changed. Hills still needs 55 and Trump only 26. I thank him and run across the street to my watering hole.
Tim Hortons is a nearby 24-hour cafe with plenty of seats and reliable wifi. I order a green tea and rush outside to get a spot in the shade. I text my mom, friends, dad, then brother who is going to college in Florida. I tell him to be safe and pay attention. It's 2:13 a.m. there, he's doing physics homework watching the elections in his dorm. He explains he voted absentee but that his vote counted for Louisiana. His roommate supported Trump.
I glance at my untouched cup of tea, which I fathom must be cold by now, and the book beside it on the black glass table. The book is 21 Speeches That Shaped Our World by Chris Abbot, one I borrowed in hopes starting today but have only gotten through the 4 pages. I check my phone, read half a page, check my phone some more which is now down to 18% from my use over the last 80 minutes. Trump takes a few more states and is now closing for victory. I'm listening to D.R.A.M to balance out my mood when my mom calls via IMO, an app which let us chat free via wifi, and she Facetimes me on accident. She is surprised to see me. As I'm sitting on the promenade, we discuss the race. What it says and what it will mean. She was actively house shopping in Georgia but has since put that on hold seeing the bottom fall out of markets on the Bloomberg. In the middle of our conversation my mom freezes, and I realize the connection has dropped. I rush to Google. Trump has won the United States.
I feel a tightness in the right side of my stomach as I take off my hat and ball it in my fists. I rush home hoping the cleaners have finished. I give a probing 'AYO' as I enter the apartment. It's clear. I put my phone and laptop on the charger, drop my backpack and start cursing. I receive a text: the Canadian Immigration website just crashed - Emaan. I continue texting Emaan, who is livid, as I reconnect with my mom and put her on speaker.
Making sense of the results from two different continents, my mom brings up a point I never thought of, which is Trump's pending court cases. Sexual assault, Trump University, contractor complaints about failure to pay. We ask how in the rare chance those cases don't rule in his favor, could we have recently convicted felon in the White House? One convicted after winning the election? A president who legally couldn't even vote for himself? We laugh, and after being up all night, it's 4 a.m. in Atlanta and my mom takes her rest.
As I look out the window at the beach in Dubai, I realize for people in this travel paradise it is as if nothing has even happened. They didn't come here to worry about politics, they came to relax, have fun and enjoy delicious food. I'm in a cage of anger but it only matters to me. Unexpectedly, this is soothing as it reminds me that America isn't the world. And especially today, that is a comfort to me.