My plan this morning was simple: I'd enter the polls at 9:15 a.m., which should make me miss the "going to work crowd" and be ahead of the "I have to get this done during lunch" group. My plan, I would discover, only had one flaw.
I was missing. Or at least my name was AWOL.
I walked into my precinct at 9:15 and discovered only two people were ahead of me in line. For the last Presidential election, that line had wrapped around the room and I stood for over an hour just waiting to get inside to vote. Today, eight voters had already been processed and were standing on the other side of the room, waiting for a voting machine to free up. An older gentleman, resplendent in suit and tie, was asking for our last name, to expedite the process as the polling list had been divided alphabetically into two sections. We all seemed to be headed for the first list, leaving him with little to do. I complimented him on how nice he looked, making him beam from ear to ear. He offered that of all the things people had said to him so far, none had noticed he was wearing his Sunday best.
For future reference: ALWAYS compliment someone who has been given a thankless task and yet is doing it with a smile. That simple courtesy would later save me a ton of trouble.
The girl in front of me, about college age, stood with her hands in her pockets and grunted her name when it was required. As the poll worker, who also was dressed as if going to the Presidential Ball instead of spending 12 hours in an old school gym, looked for the girl's name, said girl huffed and puffed in irritation. The woman politely looked up at the girl and said in a rather maternal voice, "Where is your I.D.?" With much eye rolling, College Girl dug into her huge purse and pulled out a state photo I.D. instead of a registration card. That's okay. It's acceptable for voting if you're already registered. After signing in she huffed over to the line, as if it were unacceptable for her to have to wait. Again.
Land of the Free. Home of the Impatient.
I smiled at the woman, handed her my registration card and said, "My name comes just before all those (name of a prominent family in my community) folks." She laughed and scanned the list. Like Santa she checked it twice. Then her smile turned upside down.
My name, the one which has been showing up at the polls for many years now, was AWOL.
Mr. Dapper Dresser quietly leaned over and whispered, "You're at the right precinct to vote?" I assured him I'd been voting right here for 15 years. He looked perplexed, they consulted the list again and then looked at me in unison, as if delivering the bad news together would make it easier. On them.
"Your name isn't here," they sighed, apologetically. "But since your registration card clearly shows that you vote here, we'll write you in."
Now before anyone worries that I have just single handedly rendered the election process null and void, I will share with you exactly what I shared with the sharp dressers.
"It's okay," I began calmly, with a smile. "Redistricting after the census always means an error or two. Oh," I added, as they unwound from recoiling in what they just knew would be a tongue lashing, "I use to be Director of Elections for my hometown. It happens. And thank you for handling it so kindly."
Mr. Dapper Dresser looked at me and shook his head, "Ma'am, I have been chewed out for the most ridiculous things already this morning. You should be upset and yet you've been...polite."
I think if I told him at that very moment I could fly, he'd have believed me.
"It's not your fault," I laughed, as the people behind me let out a sigh of relief that I wasn't going to be "that woman" who raises hell in public just to see how many heads will turn her way. Never been a head turner. Sure don't want to be labeled as worse.
The truth is, I've been on the receiving end of worse during an election. I know the trouble drawing new district lines can cause as it was once my job to set up elections. When I went to our local political delegation to advise I didn't have enough information to do the job properly, their reply was to insist I proceed. The kicker was having them tell me to quit worrying, as I'd always done my job well. Unfortunately they forget that conversation when everything went wrong election night. By morning they were calling for my head on a rusty platter. However, actions have consequences. Let's just say I got to keep my job as I'd documented everything in writing. Not all of them survived public opinion.
So today, I signed the polling list, waited in line for a couple of minutes and got to talk to neighbors I don't often see. When Mr. Dapper Dresser turned to see who was next in line, he looked at me and smiled. As I approached the machine, I grinned and muttered, "Here comes trouble," making him laugh out loud.
And with that, I not only did my duty as an American in voicing my opinion, I left feeling better simply because I didn't make those poll workers feel worse.