On the first Tuesday of every November""well, the first Tuesday after the first Monday, which six out of seven times is just the first Tuesday""our country takes part in a tradition as old as democracy. That's right we watch the news. Approximately half of us voted, but at least three times that many people turned on the TV.
It is not by choice that we watched the news this past Tuesday night (which was the 5th of November, seeing how Monday was the 4th). We watched the news because we had no other choice. Which is very ironic since that's the same day that we celebrate democracy.
I also cringe in calling it news, since there was nothing new (though whatever it was, it was plural). This year, the networks were very careful not to have a repeat of the 2000 election, where they first told us that the conservative compassionate was elected president, when it turned out to actually be the compassionate conservative. Last year, there were no repeats of the debacle because last year there were no elections. Sure, Election Day comes annually. But the year after a presidential election, your patriotic duty to vote is changed to your patriotic duty to test if the levers still work, regardless of whose name is next to them.
This year, up-to-the-minute election coverage consisted of a lot of lawyers being very, very careful.
"We've just received word that in the state of North Dakota, there are a lot of people voting, and they have been choosing between candidates all day. We'd tell you more, but we're still grounded from when we were idiots two years ago. Back to you, Skip."
As much fun as it is to mock the people at the networks (and boy, is it fun!), the rest of us are just as guilty. After all, much of the voting fiasco of 2000 was caused by people without microphones. These microphone-less people also once voted for a dead guy over John Ashcroft, though I probably would have done that, too.
This Tuesday, I accompanied my father to his local voting facility Queens' scenic Martin Van Buren High School. Van Buren High is a facility so progressive that they are currently re-constructing all of their outdoor athletic facilities, a project that they started during the first week of school. After we followed more than a dozen signs telling us to decide between the candidates "Here" and "Aqui" (rimshot!), we finally arrived at the Van Buren gymnasium, in which we surprisingly found voting booths instead of the football team.
I'd like to remind you that everything I write in this column is based on the truth. The column's motto is "it's funny because it's true." Which is not to say that everything true is funny. I bet when news of the Hindenburg spread, people were not saying, "Is that true? Because if it is, it's hysterical." Well, some of them may have been, but those people were probably very, very mean.
The gym was being run by election volunteers, which us "I'm too busy to help anyone" citizens appreciate. Though perhaps I should say the gym was being walked, because nothing in there was moving fast enough to run.
While we were signing in, an older woman (older compared to the other senior citizens in the room) discovered that there was one extra voting card no one had taken number 442. So the woman took a pen and changed the number to 441, and changed 443 to 442, and 444 to 443, until my father said "why don't you just get rid of the extra one?" The woman told my father it was a good idea and finally threw one in the trash, but not until after she changed 445 to 444.
While my father disappeared behind the curtain and did his best impression of the Wizard of Oz, I asked the volunteers for a change of address form. One went to retrieve it for me, and then jokingly asked why I was moving to the neighborhood, without ever confirming that I actually was moving to the neighborhood.
"Are you interested in all the ladies?," she said, pushing her blue hair aside.
I explained that my father lived there, and I was merely accompanying him to the polls. With that, the older woman retrieved another woman older still, who I later discovered was named Polly. The first woman said that I was moving into town because my father knew Polly, and she had recommended it to me. After a few seconds of utter confusion, I realized the misunderstanding, apologized to the befuddled Polly, explained the similarity of her name to the word "polls," and began to comprehend how a Miami Jew could accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan.
The change of address form she gave me was in Spanish. I know that it wasn't in English, because I can read English. I returned it to the woman, and politely explained the problem.
"It's in Spanish? Then all the ones I've been giving out tonight have been in Spanish. Maybe there's another pile somewhere."
What amused me about her mistake was not the mistake itself, rather the dozens of other people who received a form in Spanish and just shrugged their shoulders and said, "si."
My father voted, I filled out my form, and we began to leave, but not before Polly's friend complimented me on my accent. I asked her to what accent she was referring. In the same breath, she said, "That accent! It's marvelous. You have no accent at all!"
After thanking her in Spanish, we hurried home to turn on anything but the news. We were just in time to find nothing but the news. After an hour of men in toupees in suits in chairs, the only thing of note we learned was that from the first 10% of precincts reporting, New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo had received more than 1,500 votes. Cuomo dropped out of the election months ago, but was somehow still beating the libertarian candidate.
I think the guy's name was Ashcroft.