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I sent my son, who is away at college, his ballot. He researched all the propositions, weighed their intentions, thought through the social and economic consequences of each. His level of caring, the way in which he can parse apart a problem and come to a sound conclusion, is encouraging. I felt a little swell of parental pride. He filled in all of the bubbles, signed the document, sealed the envelope and then called to ask, “Now, what do I do with it?”

“You mail it,” I said.

“How?” he asked.

I said, “Just stick it in a mailbox.”

He was quiet for second, then asked the question I feared was coming: “What’s a mailbox?”

“Mailboxes,” I said, “You know, the big, navy blue metal containers, scattered all over the city?”

“Huh,” he replied, considering the strange concept of putting something important down on paper, slipping it into a blue metal box on a street corner. A few hours later, he called to say, “You were right, Mum. Those blue metal boxes are everywhere!” As if it were possible that I had made the whole thing up.

Often, we assume a common language, a shared experience, a similar view of the city. Truth is, sometimes we are in different cities – some with blue boxes, some without.


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