Joseph E Bird

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I should have expected trouble.  After all, it’s 2020, the year of complete crazy.

So there I am, standing outside because we’re not allowed to go in, because this is 2020 and you have to wait in line for everything, or queue, as my friends across the pond would say. The queue is nothing new over there, or so I’ve heard.  In the US, the queue is usually practiced in the car (of course). You should see the line that forms at the Dairy Queen every day because you still can’t go inside. Got to have the milkshake because it was 95 here yesterday, (or 35 for my friends across the pond). 

But I digress.

Yesterday I was queuing (I feel so British when I say that) to vote. Six feet (1.82 meters) apart. And behind me a lady (?) gets out of her car belly-aching about the precautions we are taking because of the “fake” virus. I have yet to wear a mask and I know that the odds of me catching the virus are extremely low, especially in our isolated state, but I also know this virus is real and has killed people, even in my isolated community. I stay six feet away and sanitize and do all the things I’m supposed to do (except wear a mask – feel free to tell me that I’m ignorant, uncaring, selfish, or all of the above) because the virus is very real. I’m tempted to say something to this woman, but I don’t because she’s already made up her mind.

The door finally opens and I’m invited in to vote. Along with my new BFF.  And we step up to the table and they ask for ID which is something they haven’t done before, but ok.  I don’t have my ID and neither does BFF so we have to go back to our cars for ID.

And then it’s back in the queue. Tally-ho. 

Eventually we are invited back inside and my BFF then makes some crack about the riots. Ok. Even is she is insensitive to everything that’s going on, the polls are not the place to voice such opinions.  So I tell her to keep her mouth shut and vote. Yes I did, to great applause from everyone. No, not really. Life isn’t like the movies. I kept quiet and eventually she did as well.

Finally I get a ballot and a plastic glove so I can touch the touch-screen without actually touching the touch-screen.  First problem, I can’t get my blank ballot to feed into the machine.  So, feeling like a Luddite I ask for help. Once it’s loaded, I start voting. Most of the candidates for the various offices I know nothing about.  And there are six pages of candidates.  I skip over most of them. And when I’m done, I print the ballot. Then I take it to another machine that reads and tallies the printed ballot.

And it fails to read my ballot.

The lady tries again. Nope. She flips it over. Nope. She tries again and again and again. Nope.

So now we have what they call a spoiled ballot. They have a process in which they mark the ballot spoiled. Another lady takes a ball-point pen and writes “SPOILED” on it. Very high-tech. Why did it spoil?  I think I was voting for the wrong people.  So they give me another ballot and this time I vote for the opposite of the candidates I voted for the first time.

I print the ballot again, and this time the machine accepts it. And no, I didn’t really change my votes. I think I spoiled my first ballot by tugging on it as it was coming out of the machine.  Patience, Joe, patience.

I toss my plastic glove in the trash and look around for the crazy lady. She’s long gone.

Democracy. It’s a gas, man.

how to squander your right to vote

I tried to vote today.

Of course that’s not the story.  I vote in every election, if I’m able.  Last year (I think it was last year) I voted by filling in circles with an ink pen, just like I did on high school tests back in the olden days.

But technology has finally arrived to the backwoods corner of my world.  This morning at 7:15, I arrived at the polling place to find brand new touch screen voting machines.  The poll workers felt obligated to teach me how to use them.  Not that I couldn’t figure it out by myself.

So I slide in the ballot to get things going and start touching away.  I knew some of the candidates, but rather than vote for people I don’t know anything about, I’ll skip to the next office until I see a candidate in which I have some confidence. On these new machines, it meant I touched “Next”.  I did that a lot.

I finally finished and then the machine started making me review all my choices.  I didn’t have time to do that.  I had to drive to Lexington.  More on that in a little bit.  I needed to end the voting exercise.  So I hit “Exit.”

And out came my ballot.

I took it to the next station where it was inserted into the magic vote counting machine. The magic machine spit it back out.  They tried again.  Same result.

“Did you hit Exit?”


“You weren’t supposed to do that.”


“You should have hit Print.”


“Hey, Jimmy.  He hit Exit.  What do we do?”

“He should have hit Print.”

“That’s what I told him.”

“Try it again.”

“We did.  It didn’t work.”

They huddled to consider the options.

“Nevermind.  I have to go.”

“But sir.  We’ll figure it out.”

“I don’t have time.”

They were still huddled when I left.

It’s ok.  The people I vote for never win anyway.

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