20 May 2010

My Day Glued To A Chair

I realize that a majority of my readers are not yet voting age, so I may be asking a moot question: How many of you had state primaries this Tuesday? My state had a primary! In fact, I worked as an election official in it. Now, before you get any ideas about my involvement, my role was quite minor. I was a clerk. Translated into actual job duties, this means I asked people for their driver's license; checked their address and birth date against the county's records; asked them which primary ballot they wanted--Democratic, Republican, or non-partisan judicial; then asked them to sign their name in our records. (I am always getting stuck as a clerk/secretary/recorder. As student editor of my college's literary magazine, I was first pick as secretary. I don't know why. Is it my glasses?) As mundane as this may sound, my job as an election clerk actually shaped up to be a rather interesting day, even though it lasted for nearly thirteen hours.

I would like to say I was picked as an election official because of some mystical qualifications I possess, like laser vision or the ability to correctly guess most of the answers on Wheel of Fortune, but the truth is my grandfather is good friends with the county election commissioner and the commissioner wanted to know if I was interested, because I have a reputation for being honest. I agreed, the $125 I'd be paid for working in one day was some small enticement, so I attended a two hour course last week and was told to show up at the city community center on Election Day at 7:30am. Simple enough, yes? Well, in theory.

In reality, I showed up to find what appeared to be utter bedlam. There were six tables set up for six different precincts with stacks of paperwork on each one and the head guy told me I was thirty minutes late. When I protested that the form I received told me to come at 7:30am, so by arriving at 7:25am I had assumed I was early, he hollered at the county clerk's assistant to send coherent instructions next time and ordered me over to a table. In theory, all of the inexperienced workers, like myself, should be paired with experienced workers. Instead, I soon found that of my four colleagues, only two had previous experience with election work. The rest of us were utter newbies. Heck, I always early vote at the clerk's office, so I had never even voted on Election Day before! Even better, we had the least number of workers per table and were assigned to cover three precincts, the most represented by one station. *twirls finger*

After some initial jitters, we finally determined who was doing what and took our seats. As is common in the small town I live in, I soon realized I knew all of my coworkers by association. The real estate agent who was technically our section's leader used to work with my uncle; the retiree who was my recorder comes in the library I work at all the time; the other clerk is the sister-in-law of one of my library colleagues; and the other recorder was my mother's fourth husband's landlord's wife (Seeing as that rent agreement was terminated following a meth lab explosion, I decided not to mention the association. ^^)

At first things were kind of crazy--for several reasons. In addition to the fact that we were handling three precincts between the five of us, we soon learned that there was no central location for voters to determine which precinct they belonged to and, since 90% of them had no idea what precinct they voted in--do they even look at their voter registration cards?--we became the default location for queries by virtue of our location closest to the door. There was only one map that detailed where precincts were located and said map spent a lot of time away from us, so most of the time we just had to estimate based on addresses. ("Oh, is that south of town? How far south? Hmm . . . I think you should go over there. If not, try the table next to it.")

We soon got in a routine and ended up being rather efficient with our traffic directions and identification confirmation procedures. Though our system was decidedly low tech (what with our handwritten confirmations and manual checking of ID), most people were relatively understanding. We did have some people who were outraged that we dare ask for ID. OMG! I didn't realize I was talking to a celebrity. Your biographical notice wasn't included in my welcome packet, pal. Now fork over your driver's license. I also had one woman who went ballistic when I asked for her birthdate, and she started kvetching about how old she was as I asked her to sign her name:

Me: "Ma'am, would you please sign your name."
Crazy Woman: "I am an old lady now!"
Me: Ma'am, would--"
Crazy Woman: "Just old!"
Me: "Um, ma'am, we need--"
Crazy Woman: "I am so old--"
Me: "Ma'am, please--"
Crazy Woman: "--that I--"
Me: "MA'AM!"
Crazy Woman: "--remember when these here elections were--
Crazy Woman: "OLD! OLD! OLD! OLD! OLD!"
Me: *contemplates stabbing crazy woman with pen before instead shoving paper in her face and wildly waving pen under her nose in a desperate attempt to shut her up*

In between refraining from murdering an old woman stuck in 1950 and trying to decipher people's addresses to direct them to the right polling station, I got my only exercise of the day by running into the break room to snatch doughnuts, cookies, and brownies to munch mindlessly.

As we had feared, come lunchtime we were stormed by voters. Before this, I had kept a careful mental tally of all of the people I know that I had seen. (This is a pastime in my hometown. When you see someone in public, you must tell your family when you get home. This is so we can compare notes on the last time we saw them with what we observed this time.) By now, everyone just started to blur together and if they told me to tell my grandma "hi" or passed along an insulting but affectionate greeting to my brother, I couldn't tell you if my life depended on it. I do remember my friend Dana came in, but that may be because he spoke to me directly and didn't treat me like a message service. (Take that, people who treat me like a message service and don't talk to me directly!) I begin to develop one of my splitting tension headaches, which always like to sneak up on me in the afternoons. Technically, none of us were allowed out of the voting area while the polls were open, so one of my friends stopped by and offered to bring me something to eat. I had already devoured a bowl of chicken stew, so I turned down the offer, though later I would regret doing so. :(

As the afternoon wore on, we had morphed into a lean, mean election machine. We were doling out ballots at warp speed. Full speed ahead! I was also mindlessly noshing on chips, cheese crackers, and what was left of the brownies at an alarming rate. At some point, I remembered taking that eating quiz on Auntie Sparknotes. (Any of you take it? Um, I didn't fare too well on it . . . ) I tried to stop by focusing on how incredibly numb my legs were from sitting for seven hours. I also began to pay attention to what other polling stations were doing. This only served to irritate me, because they were mispronouncing the ballot's name! The woman next to us was calling the non-partisan judicial ballots non-judicial ballots. Those ballots were only for judicial races. She was calling them the exact opposite what they were and, as an anal retentive obsessive compulsive perfectionist, I found this really pissed me off. I tried to remind myself what a jerk I was being and instead returned to focusing on my numb legs.

After about 5pm, I started to suffer the consequences of noshing on junk food non-stop. My stomach started to hurt and I felt nauseous. Fortunately, this coincided with a rush of after-work voters, so I didn't have time to be sick. I also noticed a drastic shift in everyone's personalities. After being locked in the same room for over nine hours, we all started to get stir-crazy. Everyone--myself included--started shifting in their seats (As if that was actually going to help) and jumping up every five minutes to check for signs of electioneering. (We feared sudden ninja attacks via campaign signs within 100 yards of the polls, hence the necessity of frequent stealth searches. No, honestly! We were most certainly not just temporarily running away to preserve our sanity. I swear! Election worker's honor!) We also started filling out the paperwork we needed to finish after the election about an hour before the polls closed while everyone obsessively checked their watches. Raucous celebration broke out when someone shouted we only had fifteen minutes left. Party time! Five minutes before the official closing time, we started putting away chairs and everything else, but we kept the ballots and ballot box on the table for the sake of appearances.

Our joy was tragically cut short when we tallied up the number of ballots we had left. You see . . . before leaving, we're required by law to count the number of voters our little station served and correlate that with the number of ballots used. Despite our best efforts--and repeated calculations--we always came up with three more ballots than we were supposed to have. Thirty minutes later, we still had the same screwy numbers and we all looked ready to cry . . . or kill. The guy in charge of our entire bundle of precincts told us that if we were short of ballots, we would be in big trouble, but since we were instead long on ballots, we had probably been given a few more than we were supposed to, so he allowed us to sign out and go home, which we all promptly did. I drove home and celebrated the end of a long day by sleeping for eleven hours.

And that, my friends, is the epic tale of my day glued--metaphorically--to a chair. I get to do it all over again in three weeks for the state run-off elections. I will be bringing myself a pillow . . . and some extra snacks. :P


  1. I have new respect for the people at elections now xD

  2. Epicness!
    When you talked about how you take a mental note of whom you see so you can talk to your family at home about seeing them, and how they were different than before, I TOTALLY know what you mean! My family does that too! Everyday.
    Now, I didn't see this eating test. Is that a Sparktest or just a quick quiz?

  3. Rebel: Awww, thanks! It's not an easy job, but I did enjoy it for the most part. :D

    Scott: Hehe Glad I am not the only person who does that! As soon as any of us come home from town, everyone else instantly demands: "Who did you see?" Ah, the joys of smalltown life. :D

    The eating quiz wasn't a Sparknotes' quiz, actually. Earlier this week, Auntie linked to it in one of her advice columns. I had always suspected I had a dysfunctional relationship with food and that quiz confirmed my suspicion.

  4. Oh wow, that was one incredibly crazy day Zella! I know how that goes, being a messenger and being told, "say hi to so-and-so," and not getting talked to yourself. Although, I'm notorious for forgetting to pass on the message. :S I do, however, remember most other conversations with utmost detail.
    I took that eating quiz too! I must say I didn't do too well either. My attitude towards eating is somewhat unconventional, and probably not too healthy. Maybe I should work on that.

  5. Feathers, forgetting messages is how we teach others to talk to us! (The logic of my statement escapes me. :P) Hehe I am also good at remembering conversations that have nothing to do with me. O:)

    Yes! The food quiz was not one of my better moments. The eating part was bad enough, but what I really bombed was the first part on emotions. I already knew I was a basketcase and my results just sort of confirmed that notion . . . :S

  6. Yes, I started to worry on the first part; I very well may have clicked just as many (or more) "yes" and "maybe"s than I did "no"s. And every time I clicked a "maybeee..." I could almost hear the test screaming "DENIAL! YOU DENYING DENY-ER!"
    Luckily I fared slightly better on the next two sections, otherwise I would have been fairly concerned.

    You know, maybe I should use, "My Day Glued To a Chair" as the title for my next post too. Because that's what I'll be doing all day, due to excessive amounts of work. Wait a second, I shouldn't blog at all, I should just DO the work. :/ *scurries off guiltily*

  7. *read* *read* *read* *something catches eye* METH LAB EXPLOSION? :) The police in my neighborhood busted like three or four meth labs in the past year...and I thought the place I live was a nice safe place. (It's reputed to be anyways, but times are changing.)

    Anyways, I must say that I know zip about politics, so whatever a precint is or voting or whatever I know nothing about. I thought voting was supposed to be nice and easy to encourage people to, you know, vote. I didn't know it'd be painful! :) Sounds like you had quite a day there. Think of it this way: "It builds character." :D:D:D

  8. Feathery, Hehe It does seem like the test is judging when you answer with maybe! It always makes me feel like I am only being partially-truthful, but I was being honest! Yeah, my score on the first part was deplorable. *peers around shamefully* I answered yes or maybe to all but four of the questions. My answers on the second part were better, but I still answered yes/maybe to nearly half. *hides head in shame* '

    Feel free to use the title if you wish! And good luck with the homework. :)

    Sky: LOL My, erm, mother's fourth husband was a certified loser, hence the meth lab explosion. :P I live in a fairly safe rural area, but meth is rampant! It's always unnerving when stuff like that is found near where you live!

    Don't feel bad about knowing zip about politics! I kept calling the precincts districts--because really that's what they are in my mind--until I heard someone say precinct. Then I remembered hearing that and started using it. :P

    I like your take on it! I did have a very character-building day. *tries to show off built character and realizes that is virtually impossible* :P

  9. Zella, are you sure we're not nerd-twins? *has deja vu* I only marked no on four in the first section as well. :S Which I'm not too proud of. Eep. And I put yes on most of the ones in the last section as well, but that may just be hypochondriatic tendencies. *cough*
    Hold on a second, WHY am I back at my computer refreshing my favorite blogs for comments? *headdesk* I should be doing HW. *scurries off. again*

  10. *Twilight Zone music* Okay, Feathery, I am convinced we are nerd twins! The similarities between us just cannot be mere coincidence! (Or basic nerdiness common to all nerds.)

    I was sort of scared by my results, too. (Though I am a paranoid person by nature, so I am sure that's an influence as well.)

    *beats Feathery's homework with a blunt instrument and chases it back to its lair* :D

  11. *thanks Zella for beating back homework while Twilight Zone music plays*

    Unfortunately I think the homework monster has grown too big to be stuffed back into its lair, and the time has come to battle it to the finish. *sighs and picks out sharp sword-pen* Because this monster has two deadlines, and those deadlines are in two days and two weeks. xP
    Zella, are you often assigned those horrible, monotonous pages called 'worksheets' in college? Because I'd rather write several essays than do a worksheet packet any day. :S I'm hoping there's an end to them soon.

  12. :O That's a mean monster! I say we burn it! *sets homework monster on fire*

    I can reassure you that, at least in my college experience, I haven't encountered the dreaded worksheets in most classes. Taking into account professor's varying teaching methods, many of my courses that required more than just tests and quizzes were either essays or projects that involved some research. Even the few classes where we did have worksheets--I remember some grammar ones in English Comp 1--didn't rely on them as a major part of the grade. :)

    We'll think happy thoughts about no more worksheets while we roast the monster!

  13. Oh yay! This means the dreaded vicious worksheet cycle is likely to end soon. (This involves me doing all projects first and saving worksheets last because they are dull, not realizing how long they actually take.)

    Hurray for roasting the beast! I think this monster must be made of something highly inflammable though, because after all this burning for the past day I've only managed to put a fairly pathetic dent in it. Back to work, I suppose. Maybe I'll sneak around the monster and get a blog post out on my birthday or something. No way to be sure though.

  14. Maybe we need some extra lighter fluid for this foul beast! Or a flame thrower. *digs around in junk drawer* :D

    If you make eye contact with the homework monster, you can usually side step past him, and he won't realize what you've done until you're past him. :D

    Oooh, happy early birthday! :D

  15. Let me know if you find that flame thrower, I could really use one. :D

    And thanks! I am planning on spending my birthday doing the rest of my work, but I do get a break to stuff myself with cake. ^_^

  16. *hnads Feathery a flame thrower, several grenades, and a torch* That'll teach him a lesson! :D

    Yayayayay for cake breaks! I am pretty sure it is unconstitutional to be deprived of cake on one's birthday. If it is not, it should be. :P

  17. Boo for keys that simulate the "back" button, I have no idea which combination of keys I hit, but my page refreshed. D: So I've had to write this comment over. Ah well

    Yes, birthday cake is certainly a constitutional right! I even made one for my cat's birthday, with canned food and catnip sprinkles stacked into a cake-shape. :D

    Yes, thanks, these are perfect! *starts throwing grenades at the the monster while reading the directions on the flamethrower*

  18. Now that cat cake is just too cute sounding! I usually buy gifts for my Chihuahuas--and treat them to bones that are far too large for them--but I think a cake may be in order this year. *peeks at Chihuahuas* A cake will definitely be in order. :D

    Yayayayay! I have some extra kerosene and matches if you wish to douse him in more flames. :D

  19. Ohh, kerosene and matches would be nice! I lent a flame thrower to Sana, she's got a homework monster attacking her as well. I also found my trusty homework sword.

    Yes, I buy my cats little presents too! Little bags of treats and such. One time I bought them a catnip plant, which they ate down to the root in a matter of hours. They then proceeded to spread the dirt all over the floor. :D

  20. Eeeeep! The homework monster must be stopped! He is attacking everyone! He had me in a rather nasty headlock my last two weeks of school. *hands over kerosense, matches, torches, and candles*

    Hehe I usually get my Chis treats, too. That or toys. One time my grandma bought them snuggly blankies. :D