Once the work starts piling up here, it can be hard to leave the city. It can be hard to leave Manhattan, even… and difficult to get out of the Village, if you don’t watch yourself. E. B. White noted this oddity of city life, that “many a New Yorker spends a lifetime within the confines of an area smaller than a country village.” Many NYU students don’t stray on the walk from Mercer to Vanderbilt…to Mercer…to Vanderbilt.
So it can be healthy to get out of the city and talk to ordinary humans—skip class, even. I recently did just that on Election Day. With the Law Dems, I went up to Manchester, New Hampshire, to serve as a poll-watcher. We drove up the night before, catching some Vermont-style foliage on the Hudson before the preternatural gloom set in at 5:00 p.m.
Poll-watching was boring, just as it should be. Granite Staters take voting very seriously up there—think Norman Rockwell, Robert Frost, town meetings—and the local election officials know exactly what they’re doing. Over the course of 13 hours watching people vote in an elementary-school gym, nothing went amiss. I went out for coffee a few times, did my reading for civil procedure, and monitored other elections going on in the country. From time to time, I called HQ and reported back on how many people had voted so far.
As wonderful as it was to help safeguard the integrity of the republic—as you can tell, I played a vital role—it was just as nice to get out of the Law School and meet people who don’t live in New York and don’t spend their weekends in a library carrel. My fellow poll-watchers were real, live attorneys—one worked as a lobbyist for trial lawyers in DC; another had a solo immigration practice in Manchester. They had some healthy perspective on law school and legal practice, and also what actually matters. They had children, for instance, and hobbies.
We came back that night, and I was back in Vanderbilt the next morning (I hadn’t read, of course, and got called on), retracing the little path between my apartment and school. But I was refreshed, having gotten away from the communal anxiety and the routines for a day. I imagine I’d feel the same, even if I’d just gone hiking, or to Staten Island or Central Park. Not too far, though. Can’t let someone steal my carrel.