When I woke up this morning, I was so excited to vote. During the presidential election of 2004, I was in college, and voted via absentee ballot. In 2008, I was working as a reporter in the Hamptons, unable to go home to vote, and again, submitted my choice via absentee. I so looked forward to casting my vote at a polling station, among people also in love with government, politics, and civic duty.
It’s now clear that I expected too, too much.
With the day off of work, I took my time getting my act together this morning and slowly made my way down to the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity on E. 74th Street. I got on the line, which bent up 1st Avenue, at 9:45a.m. It was chilly out, but the sun was shining, and my spirit was still way up.
We slowly moved our way onto E. 74th Street and up the block. Probably 20 minutes had passed when I reached the polling station door. Inside, women were selling cupcakes, coffee, baklava, and a ham and cheese croissant special for $3 in the lobby. Life is good.
But it was right around this time that I started to become aware of the angst rising around me. The two women in front of me, approximately 97-years old, were asking each other how long it takes to fill out a ballot. “You just go down the party line,” one of them said. She clearly missed that day in Civic Values when they told the class you can vote for whoever you want, but I gave her some leeway, because I’m sure her class schedule was all kinds of jumbled once the Civil War broke out.When I reached the sign-in point, a long-ish line had formed at the District 34 ballot table. Of course, this was my district, because God has a seriously effed-up sense of humor. I joined my line obediently, standing behind a (bottle) red-head and her husband. They were chatting with other people in line, and I shortly came to learn they were all from the same apartment building.
“This is ridiculous,” one of them wearing a Britney Spears circa 2007 khaki hat quipped. “I have places to be.”
“I know,” said the red-head. To which her husband responded, “Martha, stop talking like that, you’re embarrassing yourself…this is ridiculous.”
Editor’s Note: All of these accents need to be similar to Mike Myers’ “Coffee Talk” accent when you read this in your head.
If it had ended there I wouldn’t have left the polling station with as much ire as I did. People complain. Whatever. Everyone can get a little frustrated when things don’t go their way. But at the same time, we were in the middle of the Upper East Side, voting in the “Stavros Niarchos Learning Center,” under three gigantic crystal chandeliers. What could any of us possibly have to complain about?
“You know those jobs we’re all trying to get and keep?” asked another woman in line, I’m assuming rhetorically. “I’m gonna lose mine if this line goes any slower.” The growing mob thought this was hilarious. I let out an audible sigh and cracked my neck like one of those enemy dojo kids in the first Karate Kid.
“Hellllllooooooo,” yelled khaki hat at the two volunteers working our district table. “Some people have places to be.” She then turned to her building mates behind her and scoffed about the table people being incompetent. I started to lose my neck.
About 10 minutes later, the line for District 34 had done a little twist in the middle and wound out the door, while no other tables had lines. This infuriated the growing mob. They wanted to know why people couldn’t be taken off other tables and brought to ours. They wanted to see a supervisor. They wanted to work the tables themselves. They were getting loud. And that’s when an old man with a walker was escorted to the front of the line.
“Maybe I should have brought my cane,” said one of them.“Or maybe I should pretend I’m blind,” said another, shutting her eyes and stretching out her hands.
Oh, I should have warned you before, these people are scum. In my mind, making fun of people with walkers is an arrest-able defense. Do. Not. Go. There. Making fun of blind people makes you a third grade bully. How these people were allowed to get to LATE-adulthood without someone smacking the shit out of them to teach them these lessons is beyond me.
After another hour of their whining, screaming, and flailing of arms, we really hadn’t moved at all. A supervisor came over. At first she seemed to be no-nonsense, but the mob eventually got the better of her. She tried to divide the line by alphabet, but it still seemed to take just as long. The mob got louder. A man who I can only assume is larger than the late Michael Clarke Duncan in Green Mile, came over and told them they were being children. “This is voting,” he said. “This is just voting.” (Practice. We talkin’ about practice.)
I think that maybe we could have made it out of there in some kind of semi-peaceful way after that chiding, however, only five minutes later, another volunteer strode over with a rando-man in what seemed to everyone (including me who was totally on the side of the volunteers and humanity in general) to be blatant line-cutting. This is when shit got real.
The volunteer orchestrating this line cutting picked up the name book from the table and attempted to find the line-cutter’s name. The dame in the Britney brim attempted to grab it from her hands, screaming that she’d been waiting for two hours, and that line-cutting was not allowed. The volunteer did not speak English well, nor did the line-cutter, and their attempts to explain whatever it was they were doing were drowned out by the screams of those in line. In a flash, hands were grabbing at the name book. The volunteer was screaming for security. Just as quickly, any hopes I had for the peaceful revolution that is voting for president unraveled before my very eyes.
Seconds later the NYPD had descended upon us, shielding the volunteer from the mob. After the week they’ve had, does the NYPD really need this fiasco? No. “YOU ARE HERE TO VOTE,” one officer yelled. “YOU ARE NOT HERE TO TOUCH THINGS. DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING IN HERE. YOU WILL LISTEN TO THE SUPERVISOR. WAIT YOUR TURN. AND LEAVE.”
To which someone in line replied “but she’s not even the supervisor!” Do these people have balls or what?!?The police action did make an impact, but not the one that it should have. It quieted the crowd, but I doubt it made them really think about how they acted. When I reached the table, the hands of the male volunteer were shaking, and it seemed as if he were about to cry. “Thank you both for volunteering,” I said to them. “You’re doing a good job.” I should have done more. I should have said something to those evil UES-ers in my line. But the time for those words had come and gone. So I thought this was the very least I could do.
But now that I have you here, I would like to point out five things that are worse than waiting in line to vote, in no particular order:
1. Waiting to be evacuated from your home as flood waters rise and a fire starts down the street.
2. Waiting for your home/flood/FEMA insurance to come through so that you can one day live in your house again.
3. Waiting for an emergency team to carry you down the stairs in the dark as you manually pump a premature baby’s oxygen tube so he/she can make it out of NYU Langone Medical Center alive.
4. Waiting for your electricity and heat to come back on so you aren’t made sick or killed by the freezing temperatures at night.
5. Waiting for your neighborhood to be reopened so that you can go and collect whatever belongings remain before FEMA condemns the area.
It’s called perspective, you guys. I suggest you get some.