Thursday, November 04, 2004
( 10:28 AM ) Rebecca
Well, everyone, I'm back. And none too happy about it either.
Oh let me rescind that. I am ecstatic to have survived my flights, the last one of which rocked and bounced into Seattle like a Super Ball(R) in a dryer. I am ecstatic to be back in my cold, moist city, now covered in a canopy of yellow leaves. To be back in the company of my GalPals, whose sweet doses of support are like cream-filled chocolates in shiny wrappers.
But this vacation was an idyll and life is not. Especially now that you-know-who is president again.
Especially because most major aspects of my life are up in the air right now. Book? Condo? BF? (And oh yes, how I have tried to love the journey and not worry about the destination! But sometimes you just want to arrive!)
I spent the last week driving, sleeping, exploring the canyons and byways and higher-class motels of the Southwest. Wandering along the Rio Grande river lined with flaming fall colors. Driving the mountain roads between Taos and Santa Fe; stopping in the artsy towns on the way to Albuquerque, seeing the Grand Canyon covered in a foot-and-a-half blanket of pillowy snow without another tourist in sight, camping in a deserted, snow-covered campground.
And then, in the final stop, Albuquerque, I did what I had come to do. I monitored a polling station on the outskirts of town as part of a non-partisan group called Election Protection. I thought it would be easy. I thought it would be boring. I thought maybe my presence might be superfluous.
I was wrong. That poll was a mess. Half the voters were frustrated, confused, irate - after being told that yes, it was true, they had voted at this particular site for 45 YEARS OR MORE, but their polling station had been switched without them knowing it! So yes you made a special effort to get here before work or on your break or with your five little children in tow - but guess what? You have to go somewhere else now!
Not only that but the poll workers, for some reason or another (confusion? misinformation? malice?) did not tell aformentioned voters that of course it would be preferable for them to vote at their assigned station despite it being a huge hassle, BUT that if it was a hardship for them to drive the f*ck all over town, well they COULD vote right here by provisional ballot.
Yours truly, in fact, got kicked out of the polling station for telling one young, distraught woman with two small kids that she did have the right to vote right there if she wanted to. I was, apparently, "obstructing" the process by clarifying to voters what their rights actually were. Meanwhile, the poll judges were arguing with each other about what these rights were, each of them telling their voters different things.
And still the people came. They voted. Then went to that other polling station to make their voices heard, even if it was a monumental hassle. They waited in line and dealt with the surly poll workers, and the unreliable computers, and the frustration of not being able to find their names on the list, of finding out that the voter registration they filled out six months ago had not gone through and that they had to vote at their old location or risk having their provisional ballot not be counted.
It was an eye-opening experience, I tell you that. Eye-opening, dismaying, and rewarding all at once. Because me, apathetic old me, was there helping these people to vote and they were doing it, despite everything. And in the end, I knew I'd made a difference, even if we didn't get the outcome I wanted. But of course I can't help but wonder - how many votes were lost by this kind of confusion across the country?
And now, after all the excitement, I'm back at work, in body if not in spirit, waiting for the unknowns in my life to resolve. Attempting to focus my mind and do my job.
But lemme tell you, it's not workin' too well.
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