There was a moment — actually a few long moments — early on during Monday’s presidential debate when my heart rate began to accelerate.
Donald Trump did not drool on himself. He did not rant. He strung together a couple of cogent sentences. You could almost — almost — picture him behind the world’s most important desk.
And then he began to channel his inner Professor Irwin Corey, the double-talking nonsensical comedian who apparently was Trump’s tutor for his date with destiny and Hillary Clinton.
I defy you to read the transcript of his answers to questions put to him in the latter part of that debate and not deem it worthy of Corey, who in true Trumpian tradition has billed himself as “The World’s Foremost Authority.’’
But there’s nothing funny about any of this.
Like many, I had predicted doom for Trump’s candidacy a long time ago. No way could this bilious blowhard, this craven bully, this man to whom truth is an alien, ever be deemed worthy of the presidency. Millions have now disagreed. The race is frighteningly close.
As I drove to work Tuesday, I took the scenic route, making sure to pass small town halls along the way. Surely, the lines of deeply worried, unregistered voters standing before town clerk counters would stretch into the street.
I didn’t see any of that. But Secretary of State Bill Galvin says the numbers are climbing. On Monday alone, more than 10,000 registered to vote online. By the Oct. 19 deadline, he expects upward of 4.5 million voters registered.
“The historic aspect of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy and the uniqueness of Mr. Trump’s are what’s driving it,’’ Galvin said.
Some of that was on display Tuesday afternoon at the Pine Street Inn, where homeless men and women embraced their franchise during a special voter registration event.
“I’m not only voting, I’m voting and praying,’’ said Nadine Moore, 58, who has been an inn guest since December. “They’re cutting a lot of programs for the homeless [elsewhere] and the elderly and the disabled. That’s what at stake for me.’’
Emmanuel Ramos, 46, works as a surgical technologist but, because of Boston’s high-priced housing stock, sleeps at Pine Street. “You can tell the quality of society by looking at its poorest population,’’ he told me. “There’s an imbalance in our social and economic structure.’’
Lyndia Downie, Pine Street’s president, said many believe her guests to be voiceless as well as homeless. They’re wrong, she said.
“They’re paying attention to this stuff,’’ Downie said. “They read the papers and watch television. Everybody here is somebody’s daughter, son, brother, mother, father. They weren’t born here. They’re here through bad luck and sometimes bad choices. Nobody wants to be here.
“There’s so much grace in these people. They’ve been through so much. We hope everybody has some constituency out there.’’
Election Day matters at Pine Street. It matters on all streets.
I was still a schoolboy when Barry Goldwater ran against President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But I was old enough to be frightened. Our parents and the nuns at school told us that he was too dangerous to control our nuclear arsenal. Sound familiar?
And, compared to Trump, Goldwater was Winston Churchill.
Massachusetts is not in play this year. Hillary Clinton would have to be indicted between now and Nov. 8 to lose here.
But if Trump were to be elected president — no longer out of the question — any registered voter, any eligible voter, who sits this one out will have some explaining to do when the grandkids ask what they did on Election Day 2016.
“Do people really want to admit to their children or their co-workers that they didn’t vote?” Galvin asked. “That’s ridiculous. One of these two people is going to be president of the United States. You have to decide.’’
Two bad choices? Noxious political climate? Dysfunctional government? Rigged system? Months and years from now, those excuses may sound so hollow to those who had to endure the consequences.
Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.