In a rabid fit of misguided pat-tree-uh-tism, I signed up to be a volunteer poll worker.
I was tasked with the Casa de Cadillac beat on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. They were hard up for warm bodies, and I committed to the cause.
A $25 stipend was offered to volunteers who showed up for a two-hour training class, and I made my way to the Van Nuys Senior Center on the designated day. The instructors crammed so much detailed information about the convoluted set up, I thought my head was going to explode. A kindly veteran, who recognized my zombie glaze, said, “You never get it all the first time.”
“I didn’t realize it was going to be a 14-hour day,” I said.
“It’s actually 15, but it flies by,” she said.
I slapped my forehead and staggered to the exit.
This past Tuesday, I arrived at the Cadillac showroom at 6 am to set up with two other volunteer newbies. A fourth volunteer was a no-show, and it was truly the blind leading the blind.
We may have been a hot mess, but within 50 minutes, we’d set up a half dozen voting booths, a handicap booth, the audio booth, the info kiosk, curbside voting and polling signage, we’d hung the flag and somehow managed to fire up our electronic ballot counter, which spit out the “all clear” sign that we were open for bi’ness. Our first customer showed up at 6:50 am sharp, and by 8:30 am, we had a line.
In the foxhole with me were a gorgeous African-American grandmother and a whipsmart Latina, both blessed with so much common sense they could handle any crisis. Like the elder gents who couldn’t remember their addresses or the lady who couldn’t speak English. All she had was a piece of paper, with a blue circle and a red circle. She pointed repeatedly to the paper and said, “No blue! No blue! Red! Red! Red!” We ascertained she wanted to vote Republican.
Somewhere around 11 am, our fourth “volunteer” turned up… but just to vote.
We learned that polling places are a be-in for lonely hearts. We accumulated groupies who wanted to talk about their Vietnam experiences or try out comedy routines. Some people wanted to know who the governor was and others came slumming for donuts.
My neighbor, the hypnotist nudist, offered to hypnotize us. We declined. We had about ten more hours to go and needed to remain alert. None of us wanted to take breaks because we were afraid we’d miss something. I discovered I had a lot of foxy neighbors and made a mental note to extend the radius of my daily sojourns with my two dopey dogs.
Things were going swimmingly until 4 pm, when the electronic ballot counter jammed.
The A-type in me freaked out, and we were on the horn with our lead area inspector. He told us to insert the ballots into the secure ballot box by hand, causing one grumpy voter to yell at us. He was convinced this was a ruse and his vote wouldn’t count.
I stood up and said, “Sir, as God as my witness, your ballot will be counted.”
He harrumphed out of there, but he was the only harrumpher. By the time we tallied up all the ballots, 400 hundred people had exercised their rights in a free and civilized society to have their voice heard.
In an area where everyone drives too fast and no one’s smelling any roses, about every other voter paused at the door as they were leaving and thanked us for our service.
Fifteen and a half hours later, we were packed up and ready to roll to hand deliver the ballots.
God bless America, indeed.