I went over to Welles Park on Thursday, knowing I'd have to wait in line for a while -- I figured a half hour, maybe an hour. When I got in line, a man said it was about two hours from the tree. The tree? I wasn't even AT the tree yet! I thought about cashing it in then and waiting until Tuesday, but it was such a beautiful day, and I didn't actually have anything better to do, so I decided to stay and wait. And wait. And wait.
It could have been fun, if the people around me had been fun. I tried to make friends, thinking about how fun it would be to say we'd become friends waiting in line to vote in the 2008 election. But the woman behind me did NOT want to be friends with me. We stood next to each other for two hours and fifteen minutes, without break -- one hundred and thirty five minutes, each one slower than the one before -- and she REFUSED to befriend me. The man behind her seemed like he would have been friends, but by the time I was desperate enough with boredom to try to befriend him, he'd been beaten into submission by Silent Lady's aggressive silence.
I wrote in my journal for over an hour, standing awkwardly, cradling it against my left arm, but after ten or so pages I was sick of myself. No wonder Silent Lady didn't want to befriend me. I was BORING. Eventually, I decided to bag writing, and started texting my friends for moral support. I'M WAITING TO VOTE. IT'S HOT AND SMELLY IN HERE. I'VE BEEN HERE OVER AN HOUR ALREADY AND I'M HUNGRY AND TIRED. They wrote back, "IS IT SMELLY BECAUSE YOU'RE THERE?" and "SUCKS TO BE YOU!!" My sister wrote, "IN OREGON WE GET TO MAIL OUR BALLOTS. HA." Not exactly the kind of moral support I was looking for, a-holes. But thanks.
When I finally got to the part where I got to hand my voter information to a sleepy volunteer, I was very nervous that they'd make some sort of fuss about it, but it all went through just fine. Not so for the woman in front of me (not Silent Lady - this woman was more like Justifiably Angry Lady). The poll worker who took Justifiably Angry Lady's info said that according to the system, she'd already voted "like NINE times!" JAL said, "I haven't voted yet, but I've been waiting in line for over two hours, and I would really like to vote now." The volunteer called the head of the polling place over, and she fired off a bunch of questions at JAL: "Did you apply for an absentee ballot? No? Well, you must have been living abroad in the last few years. Did you move recently? Well, you must have applied for an absentee ballot. That's the only explanation. Or you were living in another country." JAL planted her fists against her hips. "I haven't lived in another country, ever, I've been living in the same place for five years, and I did NOT apply for an absentee ballot. AND I've been waiting in line to vote for the last two hours!"
By the time I left, after doggedly working my way through the 15 page ballot, and double checking my answers like it was a school test, and printing out a paper trail of evidence that I voted, and getting my receipt of voting to put in my scrapbook, JAL was still standing there, waiting to vote. Yikes.
These are strange, hopeful times. If you haven't voted yet... have fun standing in line on Tuesday! Bring a book, catch up on old Newsweeks you've been meaning to get through. Hand out snacks to your fellow voters. Make friends with the people around you (unless they're Aggressively Silent).
Vote. Vote. Vote.