Monday, November 03, 2008

Rock the Vote

I woke up on Saturday morning eager to go do my civic duty, which meant throwing sticks at anyone playing Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” loud enough for me to hear through the open window of their Corolla. Then I wanted to go to my nearest polling place to tick some boxes and snag an “I voted” sticker before the Tuesday crush. After swiping my neighbor’s paper, I learned that the polls would open at 10:30 and since you’re not assigned to a particular precinct if you roll in early, I selected a location in a strip mall on the fringes of the county where directions to people’s homes involve phrases like ‘turn left at the stack of burning tires’.

Assuming that no one else would take a break from my their Saturday morning ritual of watching infomercials and softly weeping, I thought all would be cool if I pulled into the parking lot around 11 a.m. I was wrong. The line had already reached a length that required profanity to describe, so I tossed my iPod and some Nick Kent into my backpack and took my place at the end. That put me directly in front of the automatic doors of the grocery store that anchored this shopping center, so every time I impatiently shifted my weight from foot to foot, the doors opened with a whoosh and a cold blast of bleach-scented air. This kept me entertained for the first thirty minutes.

The guy standing front of me was clumsily unpacking a folding chair screenprinted with the Harris Teeter logo and wearing a sweatshirt embroidered with tiny black bears folding themselves into letters of the alphabet that spelled out 'Gatlinburg, Tennessee', a city that looks like what would happen if a Cracker Barrel came to life. He stared at me, open mouthed, as I assembled my Eff Off Starter Kit and I’d just popped both buds in when I saw his lips moving. Sighing, I removed one just so he could say “Is it hot enough for you?” It was barely 55 degrees so, no, it was not. He was going to be a treasure.

I pressed play on some remastered Elvis Costello and tried to read, periodically rotating myself like a hot dog on a gas station rotisserie, ensuring that my neck tan would look equally ridiculous from all sides. Eventually, we were all shuffling forward every fifteen minutes or so, giving someone else the chance to fuck with the grocery store. I managed to get through three consecutive paragraphs when a woman wearing a sweater swiped from Bill Cosby’s dumpster and a smile that made me crave corn niblets tapped me on the shoulder. “You’ll want to read this,” she said, shoving a pamphlet into my hands and clutching both of my paws between hers for a time period that balanced uneasily between comfortable and creepy. I took the unevenly trimmed sheet of paper as she gave me a solemn nod and a thumbs up before moving to the next person in line. The handout was about the candidates for Agricultural Commissioner.

This,” Gatlinburg said, waving his copy in the air “Is the most important race on the ticket if you ask me.” I’m pretty sure he was serious. “Yessir, if you ever been to the State Fair, you’ll want to think about who you give a vote to.” Right, since only one of these men can maintain the integrity of the Jack Daniels mirrors they give away at the balloon dart booth. I thumbed through it and, even though the word mosquito was used several times in the opening paragraph, I lost interest when it didn’t tell me which candidate would promise to bring back Whack-A-Mole.

The line shambled another four steps forward--which meant in the past hour I’d moved from the S to the I in the words Harris Teeter—when someone squeezed my shoulder. It was Niblets again, holding a Kinkos bag spilling a bigger stack of papers. “Hi, would you like a pamphlet about the—"

“Agricultural commissioner?” I asked?

She paused, giving me a look of genuine surprise. Or maybe fear. “Yes! Yes, that’s it exactly! Would you like one?”

I shook my head and she moved to Gatlinburg, who took a second handout. Before this was over, I would be given enough paper to choke The Lorax. There were handouts about judges, the attorney general, and a coupon for a free oil change from the non-partisan mechanic across the street whose hastily-drawn ad showed an oil can impaling both an elephant and a donkey. The only upside to my paper pile was that I’d have enough to start a fire if I was still in line after dark.

Eventually I moved past the Teeter to the Day Spa on the other side. The door was open far enough that I could see a whiteboard behind the register that said "Ask us about going bare DOWN THERE!” beside a cartoon bear with an expression that suggested mild retardation. Given the zip code this place operated in, I assumed that they’d wax your pubes less for the eroticism of it and more because it prevents weevils.

By the time I could see the door to the polling place--at around the two hour mark--my iPod’s batteries were dead, my distended bladder was thisclose to making me McCain in my pants, and Gatlinburg was singing “Onward Christian Soldier” loud enough to make the Day Spa close their door. I considered scrapping the entire deal and going to collect my free oil change but No, I told myself, this is too important and your voice needs to be heard.

I was rewarded for this decision by being stung by a yellowjacket.

Spraying a string of words that gave Jesus some creative surnames, I clawed at my swelling Achilles tendon and Gatlinburg—who was now wearing a hat that looked like an umbrella—turned around and said, dismissively, “Aw, that’s nothing. I’ve been stung by badder things than a little ol’ bee.” He started listing insects but I ignored him because sadly they’d all been nonfatal.

He was trying to think of the name of a particularly venomous waterbug when a tired-looking woman opened the door to the polls. “Next six, you’re in”, she said, ushering in the remaining people in front of me and Gatlinburg. I was SO INSANELY CLOSE but somehow another sitcom’s worth of time ticked by. My now-misshapen right calf looked like John Merrick’s skull and I was hungry enough to buy a slice of pizza from a guy who was selling Papa John’s out of a shopping cart. It tasted like pennies and failure. “Oh, I forgot all about the spider bites!” Gatlinburg said, attempting to drape an arm around my shoulder but missing wide right. I was about to birth my pee baby on his Crocs when the door opened. It was go time.

The room was cramped and crowded with weary volunteers who looked as overworked as Aretha Franklin’s undergarments. One of them led me to a computer and asked my name, gave me a printout to sign, and then directed me to the final line. Not only were there just six stations, but you had to wait for the Voting Valet to personally guide you to your machine and loudly explain THE HISTORY OF THE ENTIRE ELECTORAL PROCESS before he'd leave you to your ballot. I listened with all the patience I could scrap together and--finally--it was my turn.

It took me less than five minutes to select my candidates, confirm my vote, and drag my bloated leg back into the midday sun. I limped past the line, which still wrapped past the cart return of the grocery store. “I’m just not used to standing in lines like this,” a sixtysomething woman said to no one in particular. Her oversized bangles rattled against each other as she punctuated her words with either theatrical gestures or a seizure. “I’m just not sure I can make it.” She turned to see if anyone was listening and I noticed that her sweatpants said JUICY across the ass, even though DUSTY may have been more appropriate. “Sure you can,” I told her, leaning close and slipping my stack of papers into her hands. “Just read these pamphlets and you’ll be fine.”

28 comments:

bex said...

DUSTY?! Hahahahaha. That's good stuff, J-Money.

Beamer said...

love it. I love elections in general, but especially when wrapped in a biting, sarcastic candy coating. Great Lorax reference as well. Haven't heard from him in years.

Fancy Pants said...

Personally, I am going to find new ways to use McCain as a verb to describe defacation.

Studley said...

You should spearhead a grass roots effort to get a proposition on the ballot for the next election to bring back Whack-A-Mole to the fair.

Belle Ecrivaine said...

This post was all kinds of awesome! It had crazy people, rednecks, killer bees, and democracy! It should be made into a movie. I'd watch while stuffing my face full of Smartpop. Would J-Money have to amputate her leg to save democracy? Will an unlikely romance bloom between her and Gatlinburg? I bet it'd be rated NC-17.

RainbowEclipse said...

Though the line sucked, the early voting was probably a good call on your part. I'm leaving work early today in hopes that when I get there,
a) I get to vote before they close the polls, and
b) that they're not out of stickers/nail-files/other random free crap.

X-Country2 said...

My life isn't NEAR this exciting! (Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing though.)

Mojito said...

Sorry to rub it in, but I went in today at around 8:50am, and was out with my "I Voted" sticker by 8:59am. Okay, I'm sortof rubbing it in...

cassette45 said...

Juicy? *shudder* nonononono. I'm not a fan of that to begin with, but I think once you hit a certain age... It's just not acceptable.

Only you could find this much fun when going to vote. That's awesome.

Jack said...

I hope that sting wasn't too bad.

Democracy in action! Far less glamorous than the candidates would have you believe.

Anonymous said...

Funny, allusive writing. Voting in the hinterlands can be interesting. i stood behind a guy with gigantically bushy eyebrows and great tufts of hair sprouting from his ears. The tee shirt covering his belly was coated with an undefinable mucky film. HIs wife had only just come in from a very dark place. I didn't want to imagine where or what it was. I was sure they were voting to protect America from "the other". Just as I was voting to protect America from them.

Talullah said...

I think Gatlinburg may be my father-in-law. Did he happen to mention his 4-H achievements in the Goat Milk category while discussing the fair?

Heinous said...

The sacrifices we must endure for democracy. Great post.

JustinS said...

Odd as it sounds, this made me wish we didn't do the mail-in ballot thing out here. Other than the occasional paper cut, mail-in voting doesn't lead to much blog fodder.

(And do you already know your stuff is fantastic, or do I need to mention it again?)

Bilbo said...

The "juicy" image has scarred me for life. I'm glad I already voted this morning, because I'd be afraid to go back for fear I'd see something like that...

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

I kind of wish we'd had a voting valet. Those machines are kind of scary!

Andy said...

That whole early voting thing sounds shady to me, as shady as Screech earning valedictorian but giving it to Jesse because she wanted it more.

Also- I love the Cracker Barrel comment.

Mike said...

Didn't take long at all to vote today. About an hour but it didn't seem that long. I knew the person in front of me and behind me so the time went by pretty quickly.

rs27 said...

You take the O- withe Jello and the Rudy and the Theo.

Thats my Bill Cosby impression.

I'll go now.

stealthnerd said...

Aw, you recycled!!

Two Left Feet said...

We don't have machines... but then again, we don't have rednecks and dusty either!

J-Money said...

bex: Sigh. It's funny 'cause it's true.

beamer: I think the Lorax stopped speaking for the trees and now speaks for something else, like maybe that Perfect Pushup thing they sell on tv.


fancy pants: That's mavericky!

studley: A-effing-men

belle ecrivaine: There would be no romance. Not if he'd been the only umbrella hat wearing dude on the entire block.

rainboweclipse: Here's hoping you got a sticker, a donut, and a free kitten.

x-country2: Exciting? No. Bizarre? Aw yeah.

mojito: Yeah but did YOU get a neck tan? NO YOU DID NOT.

cassette45 It didn't seem this hilarious at the time. Probably because I had to pee so insanely bad.

jack: No, and I got some satisfaction from knowing that the bee died after stinging me. I mean, I think that's what happens, right?

anonymous: Ear tufts? For the loss, furry voting guy. For. The. Loss.

talullah: You win best comment of the day. I'm mailing you my dog as a prize.

heinous: Gracias. I like your hat.

justins: True, but mail-in voting wouldn't have left a divot in my calf.

bilbo: So I shouldn't have given her your number?

your ill-fitting overcoat: They weren't as terrifying as the self checkouts at the grocery store. Those things scare the shit out of me.

andy: Saved by the Bell FTW

mike: Aw, rub it in...

rs27: You have already out-funnied Dane Cook's entire career.

stealthnerd: Question mark? Some of this was twittered in real time on Saturday, yes. Because I didn't have anything else to do.

two left feet: How do you do it then? Please tell me it involves a shoebox wrapped in tissue paper with a slot that you slide your votes into, like a student council election.

Emily said...

This inspired me to make a LOLvote. It actually isn't very funny (distinct lack of LOLs, and filling out an absentee ballot? Not an intersting spectator sport, to be quite honest.)

So even though it may be a LOLfail, I just though you should know. :)

emmysuh said...

Wow, I thought my continously-pressing-the-Help-button-thinking-it-was-the-vote-button experience was rough, but luckily I only had to wait in line for about ten minutes. Glad you survived and glad you stuck it out.

surviving myself said...

You are the most Mavericky blogger I know.

The Underpaid Princess said...

That? Is patriotism. Not everyone will endure yellowjackets and rednecks for their country.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure he meant your handing off of the reading material.

Everyone loves you here.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Love it! Gatlinburg reminds me of a hideous redneck I saw at a zoo once. He was teaching his son a serious life lesson when talking about the lions.

He explained that the woman does all of the hunting and the male just has to "slap her around" when she gets back and "take what she's got."