I know it’s a license plate motto, and a rather Quakerly-sounding inside reference, but I do “have a friend in Pennsylvania.” Several, in fact. A couple of our buddies who live near Penn State spend as much time at their Matinicus Island home as work and the water pipes permit. But, as registered voters in PA, their commitment to getting their votes cast and counted this time was beyond what we usually see.

Our friends ordered their absentee ballots way ahead of time, arranged for mail forwarding to their post office box here, and waited. Knowing — as all island residents have known since long before the rest of the country learned these lessons — that you shouldn’t ever count on mailing anything last-minute, they were organized. In our case it’s generally the weather that slows up the mail, not people physically taking apart post office machinery and selling off the parts, or prying big blue mailboxes out of sidewalks in cities leaving nothing but four bolts in the concrete — but whatever. In the end, the lesson is the same: leave extra time.

Week after week went by. Election Day was getting close, and still no Pennsylvania ballots on Matinicus. The news was full of worry about this stuff — mail delays, missing ballots, fraud, communists, militias, sabotage, insurrection, zombies, Martians — all the usual complications.

Even if everything on the mainland worked as smoothly as Life with Dick and Jane, the ever-uncertain weather over Penobscot Bay could obstruct any last-minute attempts at civic duty. Determined to vote, our friends called the Centre County elections office in Bellefonte, PA. The helpful clerk (thank goodness for such people!) explained that it would be no problem to disqualify the ballots that were never received, and which were probably parked in a returned-mail bin on a shelf somewhere. She’d send out new ones. Easy.

We’re down to a few days. The nice lady from the county assured our voters that the rules stated that ballots postmarked in time were fine, as long as they arrived by November 6th “… but, of course, there will be lawsuits, so I’d get on it if I were you.…”

Not trusting the regular mail to be fast enough at this point, and with an islander’s usual squint at the weather radar, a Centre County neighbor was designated to collect blank ballots for Mr. and Mrs. at the elections office between 3 and 5 p.m. on a certain day. Said helpful soul drove them directly to the University Park-State College Airport FedEx facility, in time to make the last FedEx plane out of the area scheduled for 7:15 p.m., with the promise of next-day delivery to Maine. Of course, next-day delivery involving Matinicus Island is mostly imaginary, and two days later the FedEx package containing the ballots arrived on this island. They were immediately voted, sealed and signed, and carried to the island post office. We have no FedEx facility here, but overnight mail — and hang the expense — was in order.

“Overnight mail” is a bit of a hypothetical concept, too, off an island. The weather, it’s always the weather, and the forecast wasn’t looking reliable for the usual afternoon mail flight. I have an aviation radio in my house, and happened to overhear the pilot as he left the island report to his company dispatcher that he had some mail that the postmaster wanted sent in early “just in case we don’t get back out here today.”

The ballots arrived and were counted. “I’m sure thousands of people were going through the same thing,” our friend observed. I didn’t have the heart to ask him what that all might have cost.

On the 7th, a few of us got together outdoors to toast an island neighbor’s birthday and perhaps some other things. Maybe FedEx, and a small-town postmaster, and a conscientious freight pilot, and a helpful county clerk in Pennsylvania, and friends who will run errands with a deadline. I couldn’t help but think of Monhegan, that island over there on the horizon, whose citizens in the wintertime see mail even less frequently than we do.

We began to notice cryptic and amusing signs from the wider universe. For example, consider the November 8th Steelers-Cowboys game, which Pittsburgh won in the last second. Literally, the last second. This time, that’s not just an expression. (I mean, if that had been our old Tom Brady Patriots, or my Seahawks, that would have been perfectly normal, but …) Anyway, I don’t watch a hell of a lot of football, but it sure looked like an election metaphor to me — especially the part where at the only-two-minutes-remaining point the announcer said, “There’s still a lot of game left.”