They say you never forget your first time voting, and that’s especially true when author, actor, app creator and The Office star B.J. Novak tags along with you.
I have long admired Novak, 37. I swooned over him as The Office’s heartbreaking temp, Ryan Howard. I’ve read his best-selling books, One More Thing and The Book With No Pictures several times, even though the latter is technically sold as a “children’s book,” and I downloaded his most recent creation, the spectacular List app, the day it was released to the public.
So I was ecstatic to learn that Novak would be in Las Vegas on November 2 urging Nevadans to partake in early voting. I contacted his trail organizers to ask if he would consider joining me on my first voting adventure. After all, this wouldn’t be our first-time meeting.
Two years ago, I requested to interview Novak ahead of his appearance at the Las Vegas Valley Book Festival. My request was denied, so I instead wrote a story about meeting him in my imagination. Then I actually met him at the book festival, and he told me that he’d read my story, and enjoyed it. It’s an experience I’ll never quite get over. But anyway…
Around 4:30 p.m. I met with Novak and one of his trail organizers at a Henderson shopping center. I started to sweat as soon I saw him get out of the car. “Be cool! cool!” I told myself. When Novak approached me, reached for a hug and said “Good to see you again!” I could feel my knees loosening like screws.
HE REMEMBERS ME.
“So, this is your first time voting?” he asked. “How old are you?”
“25,” I said.
“So you could have voted before?”
“Yes,” I said, cheeks flushed. “I was two weeks shy of 18 in 2008…”
“And what happened in 2012?”
Oh gosh! Is he going to call this off?!
“I … wasn’t as concerned then as I am now.”
“Hmm.” He nodded. “Thank you for your honesty.”
Novak and I caravanned to the polling place in the Silverado Ranch shopping center, arriving just after 5p.m. I decided to ask him a few questions in the parking lot before doing my democratic deed.
“Have you participated in a voting push in years’ past?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “It’s not something I usually do. But I felt more compelled this year than ever.”
“What would you say to someone who thinks their vote doesn’t count?” I asked him.
“Look at what happened in Florida in 2000,” he said. “If an auditorium full of people had voted or early voted, they could have changed the entire course of history.”
“Why is early voting important?” I said.
“Everything that comes up on the day feels more important. It’s very easy for a few surprises to stop you from voting. And then the rest of your life, you’ll be asked about this election and you’ll make up an answer or say, ‘Ah, there was a lot of traffic and I had a date,’” he said.
Is he dropping a hint?
I snapped out of my imagination again and walked to the voter line that’s now wrapped four times around front of the trailer. I noticed a woman in scrubs, another in a uniform from CiCi’s pizza and a man wearing a construction helmet. We are a diverse and patriotic bunch. (Especially you, dude in the Captain America t-shirt!) I took my sample ballot out of my bag and read it over again until it was my turn to go inside the trailer.
“May I scan your booklet?” the attendant said when I walked in. Then she asked me to verify my information. “Are you a first-time voter?” she asked. I confirmed. “Ladies and gentleman!” She announced to my fellow political process participants, “we have a first-time voter!” The trailer erupted in applause. What a warm welcome!
I took my place at the voting station and, after some minor confusion over just how far you have to push in the activation card, I was checking circles like a professional, imagining the hundreds of years that led to this moment.
Thank you, great-grandparents for my freedoms! Thank you, Susan B. Anthony! Go America!
I reviewed my selections on the screen and printout, then smiled big at the exit door attendant to swap my activation card for that beautiful ‘I VOTED’ sticker! As soon as I stepped out of the trailer, I checked the time on my phone… 5:51 p.m.! B.J. Novak has been waiting for me in the parking lot for over half an hour!
I re-joined him in front of Target. “How did it go?” he asked. I told him about the applause and showed him my sticker. He asked if he could take a picture of it and I said, “of course!,” wondering if it would make the cut for his Instagram page, @picturesoftext.
As the sun was setting and I walked back to my car, I realized that I’d just knocked out two firsts: voting in a presidential election, and an actual, real-life interview with B.J. Novak. Both are two firsts I’ll never forget.
Early voting continues in Nevada through November 4. For more information, visit ClarkCountry.Gov/vote.