There’s a great joke in an episode of “Absolutely Fabulous” in which one of the characters is quizzed on how many years Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. The choices were 11 years and 900 years. The character answered 900 because “it did seem like an awfully long time.” That’s how I’ve felt about this election cycle. It does seem like it went on an awfully long time. So I was psyched to wake up early this morning and get on line to grab this election by the (redacted). Sadly, my psychitude quickly turned to a sinking feeling of dear-Lord-what-fresh-hell-have-you-served-up-for-me-today as my fellow voters took the word “entitled” and ratcheted it up to eleven.
I’ve seen things, guys. Things no one should see. In the space of an hour this morning, I saw a group of voters melt down like the China Syndrome. (Yes, it took me an hour to vote. I live in a particularly dense neighborhood of New York City so there is always a line.) Feel free to keep reading but, for those of you who are crunched for time because you have to go vote, I’ll sum up the collective attitude for you in one paraphrase: “I have no idea how this process works but I’m still going to yell really loud because I feel like this system isn’t working! And if that’s how I feel, I MUST BE RIGHT!”
What have I seen? Three people turn on a line expediter for asking what their district numbers were. “Why are you calling out random numbers? How am I supposed to know what table to go to? What’s a district number? Ugh, I just want to VOTE.”
What have I seen? More people turning on that same, sad sack line expediter for pulling someone out of line because the table for her district was free. “You can’t pull people out of line! Why is she going first? What’s a district number? Ugh, I just want to VOTE.”
What have I seen? People groaning “HERE we go” when someone asked (in English) for an interpreter so that he could make sure he was voting correctly. Someone who speaks English as a second language? In Manhattan? Insane!
What have I seen? A voter become disproportionately mad at me after I told her “thank you for trying to help but my last name starts with an M so I can’t go on the N-T line.” “Well they don’t know what they’re doing! You should be able to go on whatever line is shortest!” Yes, that makes much more sense. Clearly, the whole system is broken. It should be more like complete anarchy.
What have I seen? The couple behind me complaining that “It just shouldn’t take this long to vote. Cindy told me she always gets in and out in five minutes.” Cindy? You’re friend’s name is Cindy? Honey, there’s your answer right there: With a name like Cindy, it’s probably a sure bet that she lives in some small town in Jersey where the three townspeople vote by gathering at the diner and dropping a ballot in an empty coffee pot. There are almost 8.5 million people in this city. It’s gonna take a while. Bring a book.
Special bonus points go to the multiple people who saw that I had my daughter with me and said “Why would you bring your baby with you to vote?” (Ok, it was only three people but I still think that is a surprisingly high number of people to ask about something that should be common sense.) Apologies to the third person who asked and got the following answer from me: “Well, I would have left her home all by herself but I just can’t trust that she won’t raid the liquor cabinet.” Two year olds! Ammi right?
In defense of change: We all know that the more complicated the process, the lower voter turnout becomes. I am of the opinion that there is always a better way to do everything. Unless, of course, you’re Jennifer Lawrence, who is perfectly brilliant in every movie she makes. (That’s a joke—she’s the worst, right, guys? We’re all in agreement on this? Be it resolved) But you can’t find a better way to do something if you don’t even know how it’s done in the first place.
Make a voting plan. Know where to vote. Know your district numbers. If you’re unsure of anything, ask for help at the polling site (or, if you’re like me and have a husband who is always thoroughly prepared for everything, just ask him). Accept said help; don’t assume that poll site workers don’t know what they are doing because, you know, government. Don’t listen to people who don’t work at the polling sites, even if they are trying to help. And DON’T complain about standing on line. There are people in the world that would stand on line for three days, in the rain, while being forced to listen to Kathy Lee Gifford’s Christmas album on a loop, to enjoy the privilege of voting for the next President. Democracy is messy, kids. Freedom isn’t free. Platitudes.
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