Friday, November 9, 2012

I Voted!: A Story of the Democratic Process

Just wanted everyone to know... (Image)

My plan for casting my ballot on Election Day was simple: I knew the polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and I wanted to be one of the first in line so that I could get in, get out, and get on with my day.  This is my story...

7:08 A.M. – I awake to sun shining through my window and quickly realizing that the cell phone I use as an alarm had likely died during the night, and that my plan to breeze through the day’s democratic process might be completely fucked.

7:09 A.M. – I stumble to the bathroom, pawing at my eyelids, which feel nearly glued shut from a thick layer of crusty eye boogers.  (I presume this is the proper scientific term.)  I groggily gaze into the mirror at my bloodshot eyes, swearing at the reflection and assuming I have pinkeye.  The only time my eyes are ever this crusty is when I have pinkeye.

I bathe them with a washcloth until they look reasonably clean and wonder if I need to wear pants to go vote.  I ultimately decide that no, boxer shorts will definitely suffice, but if I have to wait outside, I will probably regret not covering up.

7:13 A.M. – I peer across the hall towards my bedroom clock and realize that I had left my contacts in my eyes during the night.  Normally I wouldn’t be able to see the clock itself, let alone the numbers.  This is great news, because it means I probably don’t have pinkeye, but bad news because I left my contacts in my eyes, which makes me stupid.  I wonder silently to myself if I have the mental clarity necessary to make informed decisions today after failing at basic hygiene.

7:23 A.M. – Begrudgingly, I put on pants step outside into the cold November air and quickly realize that I will have to dig a scraper out of the bottom of my trunk in order to remove the thick layer of frost that covers my windows.

7:28 A.M. – I remain slouched in my driver’s seat with the defroster on full blast and the windshield wipers racing furiously back and forth to assist in the deicing effort.

7:29 A.M. – I place my face inches from the inside of my driver’s side window and stare at the ice crystals which sporadically cover it, examining their intricate designs and natural geometry.  After several moments, I refocus my eyes to see the new neighbors, whom I still have not met, waving at me as they drive by.  I’m not staring at you neighbors.  I’m staring at the window crystals.  Why’d you have to make it weird?

7:31 A.M. – I decide that enough of the front windshield is clear that I can drive to the polling station.  A few minutes later, I reach the parking lot for the school gymnasium where I am assigned to vote and realize that the parking lot is already full.  I circle it for ten minutes, stalking voters as they walk out to their cars, breaking focus only to give a nod of approval to the guy in front of me who undoubtedly yelled “fuck it” just before driving his pickup truck onto the grass and parking it next to the handicap spaces.  I now realize I probably should have brought my blind Irish grandmother with me so that I could take advantage of her cripple card.  According to her feeble senility, it’s actually called a “handicap placard.”  Whatever you say, Nana; I just want you around so I don’t have to walk as far.

7:46 A.M. – I find a legal parking spot and plunge back into the chilly air.  I saunter slowly towards the gym, stopping for a moment to stare at the people waving at me and holding signs urging me to “Vote NO on Question 2” and cast a ballot for their preferred president, senator, councilperson, or register of deeds, which is apparently something you vote for.

What the hell are they waving and smiling at me for?  My knee-jerk reaction is to flip them the bird, but then I think maybe I should just return their greetings to be nice.  But what does it mean if I smile and wave back?  Am I entering into some binding non-verbal contract with them if I do?  It’s possible their seemingly warm-hearted gesture is actually a ploy to get me to support their economic policy, implicit racism, love of recreational drugs, or method of registering deeds.  Well I’m not falling for it, you fuckers.  You may fool the children when you write “free puppies” on the side of your van, but you’re trying to exploit my insecurities and manly love of smiles for political gain, and I’m frankly disgusted by it.

7:47 A.M. – At this point I realize I’ve been staring at this small group of shivering, sign-holding, elderly people for what most would probably consider to be a lengthy amount of time, and that they’re now subtly pointing and whispering instead of conspicuously smiling and waving.  Considering my work to be complete, I continue walking towards the door of the gymnasium.

7:48 A.M. – I enter the gymnasium to the sight of makeshift voting booths and a line of senior citizens eager to participate in the democratic process just in case they die before lunchtime.  My heart sinks when I think of the amount of time I may waste waiting.  As this thought goes through my mind, however, a man walks over to me and asks if I live in Precinct 7 or Precinct 8.  After replying that I reside in Precinct 8, the man points me towards a table without a line.  I consider yelling something derogatory about British people and their love of standing in line to those around me, but control my emotions and walk towards the table.

7:50 A.M. – I get my ballot and vote.  Nothing interesting happens beyond the fact that I use a marker to fill in a bubble with devastating precision that would make a standardized test proctor weak in the knees.

7:56 A.M. – I feed my ballot into a machine that hopefully isn’t a paper shredder and accept the “I Voted” sticker an elderly woman offers to me.  I accept this to mean that it was not, in fact, a paper shredder.  I’m not really that trusting of a person; she just had an honest face.

7:57 A.M. – I exit the gymnasium and walk towards my car, ignoring anyone who tries to wave or smile at me.  I greet the crisp November air for a third time this morning with the exuberance of paralyzed kitten.

7:58 A.M. – I watch a handful of cars circle the parking lot, waiting for voters like myself to vacate a parking space within a quarter mile of the school.  As I approach my car, I turn my head to see a car about to drive passed me.  I stick out my hand and command him to stop, which, much to my confusion, he actually does.  Pleased with my new future as a respected traffic cop, I continue walking, unlock my car, and wonder to myself what the future of our country must be like when there are people that actually read this entire damn thing—all 1,215 words of it.

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