It’s odd experiencing an election outside the US. I am forever grateful I was spared the onslaught of political ads and signs, but I also felt disconnected. If it weren’t for all my friends going on about it on Facebook and the occasional BBC “U.S. President Barack Obama and this bloke named Mitt Romney had a debate. Now on to weather!” blips, I wouldn’t have known it was happening. Being five hours ahead on Election Night certainly didn’t help. The BBC had in-depth coverage about the election, but most polls didn’t even begin to close until after midnight GMT. I was torn. They say the average person only sees 18 election in their lifetime. Seems like something worth staying up for, even more so than the Super Bowl. So I plopped myself in front of BBC’s coverage, which as usual was entertaining. I think my favorite comment came from some important British guy: “Over two hours to vote? I think most of us Brits would go home after 10 minutes of waiting.” Even I’m amazed that some Americans waited that long to vote. They had various BBC corespondents reporting in from bars across the US, including Ohio and Florida. Random people kept popping up behind the reporter and shouting “Obama!” A little after midnight some of the numbers started coming in. “This is exciting!” I thought. But then my eyes started to get heavy. They started talking about the same things over and over again because no new states were reporting. I realized this was not an election that was going to be called at a reasonable hour for me. So I went to bed. Around 5 a.m. (midnight EST) I woke up and saw the breaking news alert on my iTouch from USA Today: “Barack Obama re-elected president of the United States.” In 2008 I heard fireworks and cheers all night, just blocks away from Obama’s party in Grant Park. In 2012 I found out who won by checking my iPod half-asleep. Who knows where I’ll be or how I’ll find out in 2016!
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend near Oxford Circus. As we were leaving we stumbled upon an aggressive fish and chips peddler who insisted we take one of his flyers. When we refused, fibbing that we didn’t like fish and chips, he asked if we were American. It being election day, I expected him to ask us about Obama or Romney. Instead he said, “Oh, that explains it. Americans like, what, steak sandwiches? Oh, and hot dogs!” And then he preceded to give us unsolicited recommendations on hot dog joints in London, including a place with “massive” ones. It seemed like an odd business tactic — get customers to eat at your fish and chips shop. If they try to ignore you and hope you go away, recommend hot dog places.
After the guy finally left us alone, I did a little Christmas shopping along London’s most popular shopping street. The stores and street were fully decked out, and it would have been truly magical were it not raining. I’ll leave you with this photo I took of the street lights, brought to you by … Marmite Gold.
I’m not sure if “You either love it or hate it” refers to the yeast extract spread itself or the fact that London sold out and turned its Christmas decorations into an advertising campaign.