Iintentionally waited until about 10 a.m. Tuesday to vote. I figured by that time of the morning most people who work would already be at work, and it would be clear sailing for me.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

As it turns out, my polling place in West Manchester Township was swamped.

And I figure about 3:30 Tuesday afternoon, it was even worse.

That's what happens, of course, in a presidential election year.

Instead of 14 percent of registered voters casting a ballot, as was the case last November, we ended up with about five times that many people voting on Tuesday.

Which was terrific.

Except that it mucked up the works. Put too many people into a place designed for about 50 at any one time, and what you end up with is semi-organized chaos.

And that's more or less what I found when I arrived at my polling place Tuesday morning.

You could tell right away, too. As soon as I walked into the building and realized the line was about 75 people deep for those waiting to vote, and there were 50 more people lined up to register before they could get in the voting line.

What we had were a half-dozen smaller registration lines bumping up against the long voting line, while a line of people coming in from the outside didn't know which way to turn. "Go see the guy in the white shirt," we were told as soon as we entered the building. And so we did.

But it was confusing. We didn't know whether to turn left or right. There were lines in every direction, and people didn't know which one to get into. Inevitably, they got in the wrong line, wasting 10 minutes before they figured out they were in the wrong line and had to find out where the right line might be.

This is not what voters have come to expect at my polling place. When there are 14 percent to 25 percent of registered voters coming out, there is not much of a wait and very little confusion. The room is never full. You go in, you register, you vote, you get your "I voted" sticker and you leave -- all in about 10 minutes (or less).

Not so on Tuesday.

You could feel the tension -- for the poll workers, who didn't like being snarled at at 7 o'clock in the morning, and for the voters, who didn't like having to do something they'd never been asked to do before.

If there was even the slightest irregularity or confusion, hackles rose very quickly. Let's just say voter patience was very often in short supply.

It didn't help any, either, that my polling place happens to be in a nursing home, which has never been a problem in the years I've voted there. This year, however, many of the nursing home residents -- I never saw so many wheelchairs and walkers at a polling place -- wanted to vote.

Good for them. But the room wasn't set up to accommodate a half-dozen wheelchairs and walkers in a crowd of more than 100 voters milling around.

I'm wondering why the nursing home residents weren't encouraged to fill out an absentee or provisional ballot and vote by mail, the better to avoid Election Day hassles at the polling place.

Clearly, so many of the people who voted Tuesday hadn't been out to vote in a primary or general election since the last presidential election four years ago.

So they might not have had a feel for the facility, the equipment, the routine, the process of voting. Then all of a sudden they're thrown into a situation where the lines are a mile long and all tangled up. Naturally, they were confused.

They didn't know how to sign in, where to sign in, how to get from sign-in to the voting line and, despite all the volunteers and poll workers trying their best to offer a helping hand, it was still like a cattle drive. Tempers flared and people got huffy.

Well, we got through it, I guess. But I did feel bad for the poll workers, many of whom were on the job for the first time.

In all, it took me about 25 minutes to do the whole voting thing. I didn't think that was so bad for a presidential election. In fact, a couple of presidential elections ago, I waited in line for almost three hours to vote. So I figure I got off easy this time around.

But the poll workers were already looking at their watches at 10 a.m. -- they'd been on duty since 7 a.m. -- and they had to work until 10 p.m.

It was a 15-hour day for them ... and it felt every bit like 48 hours, I'm sure.

Here's a salute to the poll workers in York County, overworked and underpaid, and patient to a fault. They bit their tongues more than once, I'm sure, instead of responding in anger.

The poll workers did their duty, and then some, on Tuesday.

A big "atta-boy" and "atta-girl" -- as it may apply -- is in order from the taxpayers of York County.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.