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Americans Puzzled About Election

November 10, 2000

In Boston, Thomas Almeida didn’t get much accomplished. In the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville, Dennis Gilbert had already lost interest. And in Foyil, Okla., Delores Panter was confident that God would eventually sort it all out.

Democrat or Republican, cranky or idealistic, Americans were talking Thursday: about the electoral snarl unfolding in Florida, about whether George W. Bush or Al Gore would be the next president _ and about the weird, wild spectacle of it all.

``Everyone knew it would be close. But gee _ this?″ said Michael Teague, 51, a Republican from Albuquerque, N.M.

At Delores’ Foyil Cafe, just off Route 66 in the eastern Oklahoma town of Foyil _ a place that boasts it has the world’s largest totem pole _ the special of the day was a deluxe burrito (peppers on request). And the main topic of conversation was the election.

``Everybody’s talking about it,″ said 70-year-old owner Delores Panter. ``Some want Bush to win. Others want Gore to win. It’s one of those things that’s never happened before.″

Waitresses cleaning up after lunch stopped occasionally to watch for election updates on the restaurant’s TV, she said.

``The Lord will choose the one he wants to be there,″ said Panter, an ardent Democrat who voted for Gore. ``I’m anxious. I’d like to see it happen in a hurry.″

In downtown Boston, two World War II flying buddies had strong feelings on the matter. W.A. Mike Quering, visiting from Littleton, Colo., was annoyed at media coverage by reporters who ``don’t know history.″

His friend, Gerard Coletta, took a longer view. ``This is politics,″ said Coletta, of Arlington, Mass. ``We’re both pushing 80. We’ve seen enough of this that you don’t get shocked.″

Still, he was impressed.

``It’s so different,″ Coletta said as the pair emerged from a seafood restaurant. ``You’ll never see it again. The only thing I’m worried about is the lawyers getting involved.″

He added: ``Whoever wins will have a very difficult four years.″

Almeida, a data analyst at a Boston insurance company, was trying to sort out all the conflicting information.

``You hear rumors all day,″ he said. ``I’ve been at my computer, on the Net. I’m just kind of waiting for it to die down. It amazes me that with today’s technology, we still can’t get voting straight.″

In Appleton, Wis., barber Red Muellenbach hoped for an immediate resolution.

``The longer the recount takes, the more questions. So I hope they finish it quickly,″ Muellenbach said at his Central Barber & Styling shop. He had predicted this election would be close _ but had no idea how correct he would be.

Beneath a picnic umbrella in a Malibu courtyard, 17-year-old Chloe Schwartz admitted she was too young to vote. But she was quite concerned nonetheless.

``Everybody’s talking about it at school, the teachers and everything,″ she said, eating vegetable soup. After all, ``it’s history. And it’s my future.″

In some parts of the country, Americans were already saying enough is enough.

``As ridiculous as it sounds, I lost all interest after they didn’t make a decision,″ said Deanna Brooker, who works at a training company in Boston.

That was the case with Gilbert, organizer of a job fair in Pittsburgh’s Monroeville suburb and an independent who voted for Bush.

A self-described political junkie, he stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Wednesday to watch the results on TV. By Thursday afternoon, he’d had enough.

``I want closure,″ said Gilbert, 47. ``Why not go with the popular vote?″

At a hot dog parlor in Tulsa, Okla., Mark Hartshorne, 35, sat hunched over a bowl of chili and vowed not to watch any more TV.

``It’s an embarrassment to the country for being the strongest nation in the world, and we can’t even count. It takes us that long?″ he said. ``I’m sure not going to stay up until 2:30 in the morning anymore.″


EDITOR’S NOTE _ Associated Press writers Justin Pope in Boston, Andy Lefkowitz in Pittsburgh, Kelly Kurt in Tulsa, Okla., and Jeff Wilson in Malibu, Calif., contributed to this report.