Tuesday, November 04, 2008


In Which We Do Our Duty...

So I voted today.

Where I live, the volunteers who run the polls are kind of intimidating. Scary, really. They’re very crisp and businesslike and actually a little strict, reminding me of a succession of grammar school teachers I had. But some of them are not the nicest people. Nor the smartest, come to that.

Last election, I was running a little late on the morning of voting day. I barely had time to run through the shower and throw on some clothes. I didn’t have time to eat anything or even swig a cup of coffee, which was a mistake. I’m not the biggest eater of breakfasts, but I do have to eat something first thing in the morning--even it’s just a granola bar or a handful of raisins or something. Because if I don’t, I find that, about an hour after waking, I tend to feel a little ill.

So there I was, standing in line at the polls, and the wooziness set in hard. My knees started to wobble and the room went a little gray.

“Are you all right?” the woman in line behind me asked. “You just went totally pale, like all the blood just dropped out of you.” I felt like it too. I shook my head to try and clear the cobwebs a little. It wasn’t working.

“I’m okay,” I muttered to the woman behind me. “I just ran out without eating and now I’m wishing I had.”

The woman opened her mouth to say something, but just then we were interrupted by another woman, a volunteer at the desk near the door who had overheard us. She was busy putting on a jacket and scarf--apparently going off shift--but she was willing to delay her departure to give me a once-over.

“You know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” she snapped, reminding me of Mrs. Dodge, my kindergarten teacher, who used to say the same thing to her class. The woman behind me nodded in assent.

“I know,” I responded weakly. “I’ll get something after I vote.”

But the lady wouldn’t hear of it. “Wait right there,” she said, and then walked about four people ahead of me to a folding table that was situated well away from the line of voters. It was full of plates and napkins, as well as a big box of donuts and a coffee urn, goodies someone had brought in for the volunteers. The lady grabbed a random donut from the box--it happened to be covered with a rainbow of sprinkles--and poured a cup of black coffee. She brought both to me and commanded me to eat the donut.

“But these are for the volunteers,” I began.

“Well, that donut’s mine, then. I’m just not going to eat it, so you can have it,” she said sternly, hands on hips, waiting for me to take a bite. So I took a bite. “’Fank ‘oo,” I said, dribbling crumbs. “Oh God,” the woman in line behind me muttered, her head in her hands. The volunteer simply nodded and, with a swoop of her scarf, departed the polling place.

The line started to move very quickly after that, so that I was now moving past a long row of volunteers who were handing us our ballots. I tucked mine under my arm and continued to eat my donut. As I finished the last bite, I noticed another volunteer--a puckery old lady who put me in mind of my 8th grade teacher, a terror known as Mrs. Moore. She was glaring at me with undisguised loathing. I swallowed the last of my donut and smiled at her, but she just stared back. I self-consciously wiped crumbs and sprinkles from my lips and then became very interested in my ballot, so as to avoid her gaze. A moment later, a voting booth opened up and I gratefully went into it.

It was a proper booth, just about the size of a phone booth, only instead of a door, it had a curtain that you pulled shut for privacy. I did that, set my ballot on the desk in front of me and began looking it over.

As I was filling in ovals on the paper, I became aware of a somewhat shrill voice outside the booth. It was the Mrs. Moore lookalike, sitting at her place a few feet away from me, and bitching to another volunteer. About me, as it turned out.

“Can you believe the nerve of that man?” I heard her exclaim. “He stole one of the donuts from the volunteer’s hospitality table! Who does he think he is?”

I heard someone else--another volunteer, no doubt--muttering something in reply.

“No, I didn’t see him. But he was eating the rainbow-sprinkle one. I saw it in the box when I came in--and you know how much I love those rainbow-sprinkle ones. And this man just came along and ate it!”

I was finished voting, but for some reason, I didn’t want to step out of that booth. I could imagine a whole gauntlet of volunteers waiting for me, ready to beat me to a pulp, or perhaps stick a finger down my throat and force me to give up my unauthorized donut.

Eventually, though, I summoned the nerve and when I stepped out of the booth, I was surprised and relieved to see that no one was glaring at me. No, not even Mrs. Moore, who was just an arm’s length away, still bitching to her fellow volunteer.

“Poured himself a cup of coffee too. I can’t believe it!” she screeched.

I stepped over, my hand in my back pocket.

“Ma’am I am so sorry I ate your donut,” I said. I was totally contrite and sincere when I said it, but it didn’t matter. As soon as I spoke, the old lady squawked and whirled in her seat to look at me, her mouth an O of surprise. The volunteer she’d been speaking to and the people waiting in line--who had certainly overheard her--all began laughing.

I opened my wallet. “The volunteer by the door gave me the donut when she saw that I hadn’t eaten and was feeling woozy. She insisted I take it. I didn’t know you had dibs on the one I ate, so here,” I handed her two dollars. “You get yourself some rainbow sprinkled donuts on me.”

This caused more laughter as the old lady looked from me to the voting booth and back to me again.

I nodded. “Yeah, I was standing three feet from you in that booth right there. Only a curtain. Heard every word.” I pressed the money on her. “Please take this.”

“Oh! Oh no, no! That’s all right. If-if someone gave you--“ she answered, backpedaling like crazy.

“No, I insist,” I continued. “You have a hard enough job without people stealing your donuts.”

I really was trying to be nice, but the laughter around us only continued. A camera crew by the door was taking an interest--oh great, we were going to be on the news! In the end, I just dropped the money on the table and got out of there.

The woman who’d been in line behind me was outside, standing at the curb.

“That’s the last time I go to vote with you,” she said. “If you EVER tell this story to anyone, don’t include me in it as your wife. I don’t want any part of it.”

“Okay,” I said meekly, and followed her to the car.

So this year, as you can imagine, I was a little nervous about going to my polling place, for fear the same old lady whose donut I ate would be lying in wait for me. She wasn’t, but the other lady--the one at the door who’d helped me in the first place--was there, at her usual post.

“Good morning,” she said as I walked in.

“Morning,” I replied, then hefted the box I’d carried in and handed it to her. “Just brought a few donuts for you volunteers,” I said then leaned in conspiratorially. “I made sure there are plenty of rainbow-sprinkle ones in there,” I whispered.

Then I went off to vote.

And if you’re reading this today, and you’re an American, and you’re of age, I hope you all go off to vote too.

You don’t even have to go bearing donuts. You just have to go.

Happy Election Day.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I love this story! Very funny! I voted a couple of weeks ago and am now feeling a bit left out of the festivities! Oh well, Happy Election day!!
MM, only YOU can make a story about voting THAT interesting! I love it.
Oh my! Fortunately, our volunteers are the friendliest! In fact, I declined to vote early because going to vote on election day is like a great community get-together!
Glad your past experience didn't quell your sense of citizenry!
Great story!
Fantastic story. I love HLS's reaction.
Been there, did that -voting that is -about 3 hours ago now. However, maybe there was some kind of ESP in the air, or the smell of donuts or some such, emanating around that made me really want to pick up some of 'em at the grocery store where my daughter and I stopped after having voted. Apparently though, whatever I was sensing wasn't bothering my daughter at all as she made me leave the donut counter without making a single selection! Kids. Just can't trust 'em no how, can ya?
I voted but this year I don't feel good about the process. I am glad it's over for me and glad that it will soon be over in general.
I just spent 3 hours in line to cast my vote. No funny story to tell but very sore feet and an aching back to show. Now, just putting up the recliner to sit back and watch the returns come in.
And this is exactly why I prefer to vote in person at the polls on Election Day! But, no, this year I mailed mine in after they put the fear of God in me about lines that would be miles long. Shoot! Great story.
lol - let's hear it for killing people with kindness!
I early voted because I can't stand the people who stand in line here and shove their political beliefs down innocent people's throats.

Also, I just found your blog a few weeks ago and wanted to say that it's fast become the best part of my day. (Meant in a totally non-stalkerish way because I'm not leaving Indiana to hunt anyone down like that. I'm far too lazy for that kind of stuff.)
Happy Election Day to you and your fellow countrymen, MM. I wish you all the best of luck in choosing your new leader.
HAHA! I love HLS' reaction, too (hope she is doing OK BTW). I must say, I was secretly hoping this was going to be a vomit story ;p
Ha-Ha!!! Great story!
As usual, I voted around 10 am, when the place is nearly empty. Instead of the usual 5 voters there were 30, but I was still in and out in 10 minutes. early adn late I'm sure was a different story.

We hadn't eaten yet, we were ok.
I voted early this year. No dramatic stories to tell. I did work as a volunteer way back when I was in college at the polls...it's kind of fun but makes for a very long day.
I crammed a yogurt in before I left. I know the woozies very well. Sometimes it's called low blood sugar honey :)
I'm trying to get ahold of you, left you email and voice mail. When you have a sec, put me out of my misery and drop me a line, would you?
Oh my heavens... that's FUNNY!!!

I have no good stories -- I voted absentee... hmm. I could have used a donut.
Fabulous story. HILARIOUS!

Lots of little old ladies have nothing better to do than to bitch about donuts, unfortunately, but I love the way you handled the situation.
Great story :)

I voted early...and there was a pretty big line. 30% of our area's registered voters voted early.
Hilarious! Made my day end in fun. Thank you!
That was so hilarious! If I find any more blogs to read like this I don't know what I'll do. I can't keep up with all I have now but yours is very tempting!
Holy Boloney - that was a good story! LOL!
I just came over from the country doctors wife! What a FAntastic story! I'm like that in the morning to. Great blog
They are scarey ladies aren't they!?
Great story. We voted at a church this year. The church ladies were outside serving coffee and donuts to everyone who was going inside to vote. Great people here in Botetourt County in Virginia! Always better to kill people with kindness.
Great Story and don't you just love it when you "catch" someone in the act of being an asshat?
The best thing about being on jury duty for the better part of the past two weeks (which you could go and read about - hint, hint) is that I now have a pile of "back issues" of your stuff to read.

(I think I made a similar comment when I returned from vacation a few weeks back, but it's true in both instances.)
Oh my goodness. that is too funny. I bet that poor old lady didn't want to go volunteer this year. How nice of you to bring a box full of donuts to them...
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