This morning, I almost felt like a voter without a purpose. The day was almost surreal.

We had dropped our absentee ballots at town hall nearly three weeks ago and when I walked our dog near the voting place on Election Day, I was just thankful not to be freezing like the others in a line that snaked around the building and down the street behind it. It was like no other Election Day I’ve ever experienced because I just didn’t have to be a polling place.

That morning I decided, since I had a lot of time on my hands before our online professional development meeting from school, that I would take myself to breakfast at my local diner. Dozens of other voters, retirees and folks like me had the same idea and the diner was packed.

As I enjoyed a relaxing breakfast, I tried to do a little eavesdropping from behind the plexiglass to see what opinions about the election I might hear. But most of the conversations in the booths were quiet, almost flat. I couldn’t decide if that was complacency or lack of interest.

As I drove the short distance back home, I started reflecting on Election Day four years ago, before what I consider the nightmare and erosion of our democracy began.

On that day in 2016, I waited in a packed line at Thomas Hooker School in Bridgeport, where we were living at the time, for more than an hour and cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Then I drove to my favorite diner, Colony in Bridgeport, which was packed even at 6:45 a.m., and got a big order of pancakes to do an early celebration for my hoped-for President Clinton.

Aside from the sudden exposure by the FBI of the ill-placed e-mails on Hillary’s computer, the run up to the election had been peaceful. There was no pandemic or issues of police brutality. The hint of more racism was front and center, but the venom hadn’t spread like it has in the last four years.

The customers at my diner, made no commitments but cracked plenty of jokes about what a clown Donald Trump was. We all had a lot of laughs. While there weren’t a lot of vocal supporters of Hillary, most folks that day seemed pretty upbeat.

The rest of Election Day 2016 remained a normal, relatively warm day. By the time I worked at the Fairfield University bookstore later, I was feeling more energized and hopeful. Things seemed to be trending well for Hillary. How wrong that was.

Then the Trump bombshell hit.

I was driving my friend Jessica, one of our closing managers, home. Rain was pelting my windshield and by the time we arrived at Jess’s house, I couldn’t tell if it was raindrops or my tears from Hillary’s impending defeat that were all over the windshield. As Jess got out of my car, we just looked at each other and said, “Wow! How did this happen? Now what?” “Who put the clown in the White House?”

Fast forward four years and here we are again on Election Day.

So much of what I feared would happen to our democracy actually has on so many fronts. I’ve witnessed more undoing than doing by this president of areas like immigration, the Department of Justice, along with his blatant disregard for our system of checks and balances.

I feel like the investigations of Donald Trump on so many fronts and the demonstrations against him and his beliefs began right after the inauguration and just continued with little or no resolution for four years. I watched the circus of an impeachment play out with no conviction exactly as I thought it would. He just continued to have the last laugh.

The one constant I’ve felt over four years is the pain from this president’s cruel words toward minorities, and his alleged support of groups like Proud Boys and other white supremacist-based organizations. I just wonder where we lost our way.

Then the pandemic hit us in early 2020. The economy took a hit across the bow, 230,000 people are dead and hundreds of thousands are infected. We had a president who did virtually nothing and showed his lack of empathy for families of victims of this coronavirus. I was mortified on Nov, 3 when the president hinted at a rally that he would fire Dr. Anthony Fauci. Even his rallies after his own brief bout with COVID were an invitation to infection.

Finally, over the past few weeks and certainly today, millions of Americans, as they began to do in 2018 with the midterm elections are heeding the advice of the candidates and exercising their right to vote.

I have definitely felt a new enthusiasm on the run-up to this election. I have been especially energized by Stacey Abrams, the former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, who has done so much to get voters in her own state and throughout the country to vote with pride and without fear.

And I was inspired today when Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who originally endorsed Joe Biden, made some very pointed statements in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Congressman Clyburn said that our country will never be perfect and we do have differences. But in an election, we can put those differences aside and do what is best for our country.

In addition, Clyburn said that “America has always been able to repair its faults. Four years ago, we had a fault and I sincerely hope we can repair this fault with this election.”

Clyburn also spoke with pride and hope about Jaime Harrison, the Democrat who hopes to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. I couldn’t agree more.

Sadly, as this election day approached, I felt a little hopeful but certainly have no exhilaration about the outcome of this election. I do have tons of stress and angst. What I do hope is that if Biden/Harris win, my lovely wife may finally stop screaming at the television set.

For the rest of this surreal election day, I have the television on and as the pundits continue to hammer at us with expert opinions, poll results and voter feedback, it appears that the eventual outcome could hinge on the state of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, I have no crystal ball, but I’ll just leave my opinion at who knows what’s going to happen? This will have been one of the most critical elections of our lifetime after all. But stay tuned. It’s far from over.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.