Guido and I arrive at the polling station — a crumbling out-building on the grounds of South Broward High School — at 6:45 a.m. That’s 15 minutes after I wanted to get there, and 15 minutes before it opens. There are about 90 voters in line, most standing upright.
It takes about 40 minutes before we get to the front door. Guido goes first. The poll attendant stops me. “You can’t come in here barefoot,” she proclaims.
“It’s a public building, Sir. It just isn’t healthy. Where are your shoes?”
Got no shoes. They’re against my religion. You got a problem with my faith? Anyway, I’m not worried, why should you be? You seem disease free, if somewhat decrepit. Besides, I don’t see a ‘No Shoes No Voting’ sign. Call Brenda Snipes (commissioner of elections).
“He isn’t actually barefoot,” pipes up the suffering voter in line behind me. “Look — he has about 15 rings on his toes.” (21, actually. Rings. Not toes.)
The attendant glowers at us both. She’s astonishingly ancient. Scowling, she resembles a cracked dinner plate. Why is it that people who do this sort of work are either dusty old white hags or obese third world women? “Oh, alright,” she says. Shakes her head in disgust. “But no cell phones.”
What do you mean, ‘no cell phones’? What should I do — leave mine here with you? What if one of my patients calls me — will you talk him down from the bell tower before he starts shooting?
“I mean, turn off your cell phone because it will bother other voters, is all.” She’s clearly rattled by now, so I achieved my objective. I fucking hate these people. Hate them. These parasitic garbage live to lord it over others, even for free. Guido says I’m sick.
Think so? So, I can’t just turn it to vibrate or something? Where’s the statute that prohibits cell phones in the voting booth? Are you actually making up your own laws as you go along here? Is that legal? How ‘bout I call Brenda Snipes? Or better yet, the Supreme Court?
I could do this all day, but I sense in the line behind me there are people looking for combustible materials to burn my irritable ass at the stake. So I glare at Madame LeFarge and push inside.
Hey, we haven’t even started yet.
It’s a big room. On one side there’s — well, there’s everything. A table for the factotum dullards to verify my voting status. It takes two to look at my driver’s license and hand me a scrap of useless paper that I immediately lose. A bunch of primitive mid-20th century metal and plastic contraptions for people to fill out their ballots. All sorts of other tables piled with papers, manned by morons who haven’t a clue how to direct human traffic, so there are people milling about, lost, brandishing papers, no clue what to do next.
I check in, head for the table where the illiterate grunt points, and try to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. Guido and says something I can’t hear, but a woman behind a table does and hands me an envelope with a pack of papers. The Yellow Pages? War and Peace? No, it’s the ballot!
“Wait for a booth,” she says.
A booth? Why? It’s a Neanderthal-era paper ballot — what’s the booth for? Just give me a fucking pen and I’ll stand right here.
Big Momma finds me a pen — had they bothered to suggest to us voters in advance to bring one with us, I would have done so and saved her the trouble — which I carry to the far side of the room, find a surface, and complete my ballot. School is out today. They could have lined the entire room with unused classroom desks and quadrupled the number of voters in the room, but evidently nobody thought of this. I guess that’s because this venue has only been used as a voting station for at least 25 years, and the ancient husks of humanity who staff it have never done this before. Did I mention I hate these people?
We’re not finished. The primitive paper ballot completed, now I stand in a line to feed it into some sort of vintage 1980s scanning device, which malfunctions every third page. When at last I arrive at the front of the line, I learn I’m in the wrong one. There are two, and of course I guess wrong. I snap out on the midget who tells me this.
Why don’t you have people explaining this? Why do make us guess where to go and what to do? Do you think we have all damn day? Here’s your fucking ballot — YOU shove it into the right machine. YOU fucked this up, YOU fix it.
This draws the attention of possibly the fattest human being not working the circus this week who waddles over and introduces himself as the Precinct Captain or something equally lofty, apologizes profusely for the confusion and inconvenience, escorts me over to another machine tucked into a corner (because for some damn reason they’ve jammed everything into one side of the room, and people are milling around, crushed together), and personally assists me as I insert my ballot. Four pages, two malfunctions, six minutes. American exceptionalism.
Is that it?
“Thank you for voting Sir have a nice day.” He spits out the molar he’d ground to a sliver. By 7 tonight he’ll be as toothless as Federal banking regulations.
Guido awaits me outside. “How come you’re always the shmuck with problems when it comes to things like this?” she asks plaintively. “Why do you look for things to go wrong? Why do you find people to distract and upset? What is your fucking problem?” Pause, shakes head. This is previously explored territory. “Wanna get some breakfast?”
Now there’s a question I can handle.
We go to Jack’s Diner.