Saturday, November 1, 2008
1:40 pm – I pull into the parking lot at the north side early voting station, one of three locations in Marion County, easily located by glut of political signs in the grass. Front lot is packed.
1:42 pm – Pull into back parking lot driving past unimaginably long line which wraps past two buildings and ends at the dumpster. Is this the line to vote or for tickets for a mythical Led Zeppelin reunion tour? Consider going home, but doubt the line will be shorter on election day. Realize I would just lie on couch in post-Halloween stupor anyway. May as well stand in line on this lovely day in a post-Halloween stupor. Brought a book. I may be achy, but I am prepared.
1:45 pm – Get in line. Pull out my stopwatch and start timing.
1:46 pm – Already want to kill man in front of me. He is complaining on the phone that the line is “sick.” Somebody didn’t bring a book.
1:55 pm – A child and her mother walk past the line pulling a cooler on wheels. Water bottles are $1. Money goes to the career center we are waiting to enter. Glad I brought my soda and cheese sticks. Will not collapse from heatstroke or low blood sugar for at least another couple hours, enough time to jump the bodies of the fallen dehydrated victims ahead of me.
1:59 pm – People are campaigning up and down the line, handing out flyers. Don’t need one because I brought my own bookmark. Glad I am wearing sunglasses. Easy to avoid eye contact with pollsters as I gaze deeply into my book.
2:05 pm – Arm is sore. Why did I bring a hardback? Should have brought trashy paperback instead.
2:07 pm – Finish soda.
2:10 pm – Eat cheese sticks.
2:11 pm – Why did I wear a sweater? November day is unusually warm, particularly while standing in the sunlight. Roll up sleeves and feel slightly better. Shade is only 20 feet away. Too bad it will take 20 minutes.
2:17 pm – Child pulls on one of the campaign signs. Parents warn her not to rip out the sign or face prosecution. Doubt I will ever see a news story about a 5-year-old arrested for breaking election laws. Why hasn’t a dirty candidate employed a team of sweatshop children to do this work for him?
2:28 pm – See a coworker walking towards the end of the line. Say hi. Momentarily consider offering to let him cut line, but decide I would rather not be strung up from the tree beside me. Chat briefly. He has not brought a book or water. I feel so sorry for him.
2:41 pm – Wish I had brought MP3 player. People in line are having inane conversations on their cell phones about political views I do not agree with. How dare they talk about politics at a voting station!
3:45 pm – Standing for an hour burns more calories than sitting for an hour. Will count this as my workout for the day.
3:05 pm – I can almost see the entrance to the building. Wish they had signs posted in the ground stating how much longer the wait would be like I’ve seen at popular tourist destinations. Not like there is a shortage of signs around here.
3:11 pm – I have now met 3 people who are running for office trying to sway undecided voters. If they had brought cookies, they might be more successful, though that would be illegal since it would be vote buying. Momentarily horrified that in some circumstances cookies could be against the law.
3:14 pm – Pollster walks by and says, “Don’t worry. You won’t finish the book before you vote.” I laugh, but cry on the inside because politicians are notorious liars.
3:30 pm – I am only 20 people away from entering the building. Meet nice brunette woman who is running for something and asks if I’m in the 7th district. I have no idea, yet I want to vote for her because her purple eye shadow so nicely matches her lavender pantsuit. Know this is horrible reason to vote for someone, unless she is running for sheriff of the fashion police. Secretly wonder how many people vote for reasons exactly as shallow as that.
3:32 pm – I enter the building!
3:33 pm – Oh dear God, there are still at least 100 people in front of me.
3:34 pm – Call coworker to let him know I just got inside. Someone in line is talking to him about Jesus. All sorts of campaigners out today.
3:37pm – Fill out absentee voting application on clipboard handed to me by a school teacher whose voice is fading like my joy of taking part in the electoral process.
3:38 pm – Student walks by with a cart of brownies and chips. Cheese sticks seem like five years ago.
3:40 pm – Election worker prints out a sticker with my voting district on it and slaps it on an envelope which she hands to me. I head for another line.
3:46 pm – Another election worker matches my voting district with a ballot number. Writes it on my envelope.
3:50 pm – An election worker prints out the proper ballot for my district on a laser printer. I get in yet another line.
3:54 pm – There is joyous yelling and bell ringing. No, the wait isn’t over. We’re just celebrating a first-time voter.
3:57 pm – Another election worker double checks my printed ballot with the number written on my envelope. They match and I am sent to a voting booth.
3:58 pm – I fill in my bubbles. Takes 15 seconds. Triple-check to make sure I didn’t accidentally vote for a Libertarian. Stuff ballot in envelope.
4:01 pm – Hand envelope and absentee voting application to another election worker. I sign and date the envelope. He signs the envelope as does another election worker. He seals it with a glue stick.
4:04 pm – I leave the building. Whole process took 2 hours, 20 minutes and 42 pages.
4:07 pm – Drive out of parking lot. Do not want to be present to witness the fury of the owner of the car that’s trapped between two other parked cars. They might be trapped for another two hours and ten minutes, plenty of time to smash some windows and key the car.
4:17 pm – Arrive home. Back hurts. Drink lots of water. Change into t-shirt. Collapse on couch in post-voting stupor. Experience was long and daunting, but worth it. If you do not make a choice, a choice will be made for you.