Thursday, May 08, 2008

I've Never Been Called For Jury Duty But...

Guess who spent 15 hours in a room without windows telling people where to put their ballots on Tuesday? Honestly, it was a fantastic experience. I was totally jazzed about being part of the voting process. (I single handedly saved at least one ballot from total obscurity. "Ma'am that's a trash can. If you want your vote counted you have to feed your ballot into that machine right over there. Yes. That one with the big sign. See the arrows? Yes. That one.") It was exciting to see folks I knew. More than a dozen people waved and called me by name as they came through. I could feel my tendrils unfurling as I let myself take root in this community. My fellow poll workers were an interesting mix: a rabbi, a blue-collar lesbian, a retired Coca-Cola Co. executive*, a 20 year-old college student studying to be an elementary school teacher, and a well-dressed woman in her fifties who seemed uptight at first but who turned out to be witty, organized, and quite kind. (Her two kids brought her coffee mid-morning. The two of them were tattooed, pierced, skinny in an 80's hair band kind of way, and when they walked in, she LIT UP. They gave her a big hug and she beamed for about 10 minutes after they left. It was pretty remarkable to see a complete stranger morph like that. I don't know if it was the coffee or the thoughtfulness of her kids (or the combo) but she was much more easy-going for the rest of the day.)

It was a long day. We were required to be there from the set up through the official poll closing/clean up procedures. We all brought our lunches and snacks and only left the room to go to the restroom. It was a busy day, as you'd expect given the democratic primary race thus far. I had expected clumps of voters, long lines at times and dull moments at others, but we were steady all day. The veteran poll workers assured me that we had an unusually high turnout, especially for a primary, and also that we'd worked out a good system to get folks through the process without big lines. Our precinct was very well run. I think the only people who had to wait at all were the 17 1/2 year olds (because we ran out of ballots for them!) or the few who had issues with their registration. The hundreds of others fairly sailed through. One woman even seemed miffed that she wouldn't have a chance to read her book while waiting! All in all, it was an incredible experience for me. And? I didn't know it when I signed up, but they pay you for it! I have no idea how much - probably not a lot - but maybe enough to take myself out to eat to make up for the lunch and dinner I missed. Peace.

*There's more! You find out all kinds of things about people when you sit and talk to them for 15 hours. This guy turns out to have played in the NFL!!! He played for the Chicago Bears in the early 60's. I was babbling excitedly to Linus about how this guy had played at Lambeau Field. Lambeau! I heard about the icy January game, the field like concrete, and how by the fourth quarter, everyone's pads were frozen solid. This guy described having to get in the showers fully dressed in order to thaw the gear enough to get it off. I recounted it all to Linus who smiled and nodded. Uh-huh. "Do you even know where Lambeau Field is?" I asked. "Texas?" he guessed. "TEXAS?!!!" Linus hugged me and said,"Maybe you should call your surrogate sports husband Duncan for this one, love." So I did. Duncan, at least, was properly impressed.

This same guy also mentioned (when I pulled out my Vanderbilt sweatshirt) that he was going to a family reunion in the Nashville area this summer. He said his nephew had 400 acres. "A farm?" I asked. "Well, kind of. It's over there...not in Brentwood. What's the area close by?" "Franklin?" I suggested dubiously. "Yes! Franklin." "Wow. Four hundred acres in Franklin? What is he, a country music star?" I joked. "Actually, yes," was the reply. "Anyone I've heard of?" "Maybe. You heard of Brad Paisley?" "Er, yeah. I have." But of course Linus hasn't. So I called Duncan again. There you have it - my very Amurican day, chock full of voting, football, and country music stars!

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