My first day as a temporary election worker I’m shocked to find upon leaving the house at 7 in the morning for my commute that it’s still dark outside. Who knew?
I arrive at work with time to spare, and make a trip to the bathroom. There’s a sign in the stall telling me that if the toilet paper is still in the bowl when I’m done to flush again, using the silver button. It takes five times to get my dainty wad of paper down, – What is she doingin there? I imagine my incredulous neighbors thinking – but by golly I followed instructions! I now know to fling towards the back of the toilet after wiping. I’m learning new things already. I will soon discover the stalls in the upstairs restroom have instructions to push the blackbutton if the paper isn’t gone, though the toilets are identical to the ones downstairs. There is also a typo on the signs in the upstairs stalls that will taunt me daily, causing me to fantasize about smuggling (we can’t bring our purses into that area, or it would have been done Day 2) in some White-out and fixing it, the fear of punishment for defacing government property the only thing stopping me. Barely.
After I receive my security badge I’m told to ‘badge’ my way in to the lunchroom and await further directions. I stand in front of the door pondering about what to do with my badge, – Do I swipe? Do I stick it in something like a credit card reader? Is ‘badge’ really a verb? – when an old timer takes pity, and shows me, the Noob, how it’s done. This will become a common occurrence the next couple of days. Huzzah to the jaded, yet kind, old timers!
In amongst the corporate-speak, which I remained silent about and figured out for myself, embarrassed as I had never been privy to such jargon (NEO, for instance is not referring to the character in the Matrix, but is instead New Employee Orientation), my favorite words of wisdom today were "Nothing forges heroes like the fire of battle." Apparently I’m training to be a hero! My Ballot Review department lead also used the word ‘fungible,’ and my nerdy word soul swooned.
Ballot Review is the final stop of all the problem-child ballots where we resolve, among other things, ‘overvotes,’ which is where you may have filled out a bubble and realized you really meant the otherbubble, so crossed it out and filled in the right one. However, the computer scanned them both, and because we’re still slightly smarter than the computer (but don’t tell it!) we fix it so you get the vote you intended. Or, say you voted on the kitchen table and spilled your coffee on your ballot making it difficult for the computer to scan, or your little precious helped you vote by coloring in all the bubbles you didn’t fill, or you foolishly used a yellow highlighter to vote, (which is the only color the computer can’t read; what were you thinking?!), or you voted then tore up your ballot in little pieces and mailed it in because you’re an ass, so someone in Opening has to tape it up, but the computer can’t suck up your ballot to read so we have to make it all right. We do other super important things too with great speed and accuracy, but I sense you’re zoning out thinking about Netflix around now, so let’s move on, shall we?
We Ballot Reviewers are also ‘Agiles’ which sounds pretty cool to me (and apparently ‘agiling’ is also a verb here in the gov’mint) – why, yes I am nimble, thank you very much –but really means we get yanked out of where we’re supposed to be getting things done, and placed wherever they’re getting backlogged in other parts of the system, like opening the ballots. Or Cig Bear, which turns out not to be a blue scruffy bear with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, rasping out orders while wearing a teller’s visor like a newspaper editor from back in the day, but Signature Verification; Sig Ver. My lead talks auctioneer-fast, what can I say?
I discover that since rejoining the workforce, even temporarily, my body has (kindly) adjusted to being around others, and has miraculously refrained from passing gas, at all, all day long. However, when I get in the car to go home at the end of the day, I buckle up quickly, as otherwise my body would go flying around the car like a taut balloon deflating.
Day….. I-don’t-really-know, but it’s the day after election and I worked 11 hours in Sig Ver the day before as every procrastinating soul in our county drove up, skirting the media hordes, and taking selfies as they dropped their envelopes they received two weeks before into the ballot box filled with hope, and to show what good citizens they are, of course. As I took a break that night, I watched the train of white, gray and black SUVs that reign in Seattle, my right shoulder twitching in pain, soon to become a muscled, misshapen hump I’m sure, from click, click, clicking, ensuring every one of their signatures is valid.
Today the media is gone, blessed be, and I’m in Sig Ver again, busy as ever helping the department from drowning in the Bonzai pipeline wave of ballot signatures, judging all the horrible ones that require my attention in my head, but sometimes out loud. If they made a time-lapse of my face reactions to some of the crazy-ass pictograms that pass for signatures it would be akin to the over-exaggerated acting of a silent film star. Some are works of art, but some look like the voter broke both arms and signed with their feet. (An aside here, as I wonder what my signature would look like if I used my foot, then stop a moment as it sounds like something I may have tried once before.) Just so you know, the County keeps the signatures from voter registration so we have an original to compare the one that gets signed on the ballot, and if they’re somewhat off we can request a signature update, where they send you a little form to sign and it gets scanned and stored in the history file so we can check to see if the latest matches any of those. Some people have multiple, like more than four signature variations, and are obviously still trying to figure out who they are; I mean, I’m happy you grew out of dotting your ‘i’s with butterflies, but settle on something already! And don’t get me going on ‘Voter Fatigue,’ which is where you got sooooo tired from filling in your bubbles that you can barely sign your own friggin’ name. Patience is not my virtue, but you probably already figured that out.
The next week I’ll still be working long hours, jumping from department to department, helping anyone, anywhere, anytime to appease the politician wolves at the door, waiting for the final, official counts. I’m glad you all voted, and I thank you. It’s important, and empowering to vote. It’s exciting to be a part of it all, and truly fascinating to know how many eyes actually see your vote, and ensure that it counts. If you happen to see me in the next couple of weeks, stop and give me a pat on the back. Literally. On the right hand side, if you would. To push down that nasty dowager hump I’m growing.