Daily Archives: August 2, 2011

My day as an election poll-worker: Exhausting but illuminating. And Stubby Clapp loses it

So I’m all about new experiences. I believe the best part of life is constantly trying new things, going to new places, meeting new people. All that good stuff.
Also, I’m a poor grad student these days, and will jump at any chance to make a few bucks.
So combining those two elements, I found myself rising at the ungodly hour of 4:10 a.m. Monday, for a 16-hour day as an election poll worker. (Technically I was an Election Chair, but don’t let that fancy title fool you: I had no idea what I was doing).
Nassau County, N.Y. was holding a one-day special election to ask voters if they wanted to support a bond that would build a brand-new Nassau Coliseum, where the New York Islanders play. (My quick take on that: The old Coliseum is a piece of junk. The Isles desperately need a new place to play. I was hoping the measure would pass. But I wasn’t surprised it failed.)
After a three-hour training session I had to go to on Sunday, I arrived Monday at a fire department headquarters in East Meadow filled with instruction manuals, an enormous suitcase with all my election junk in it (seriously, this thing would’ve given James Bond a hernia), and greeted by my four co-workers for the day: Palma, a kindly lady who I think voted for Teddy Roosevelt once; her sprightly friend Carmela, who also had worked at this polling place for 30 years; Alan, a retired teacher and fellow Member of the Tribe, and Natasha, a 24-year-old soon-to-be lawyer who just took the bar and, like me, was brand new to this election racket.
For 15 hours, except for each of us taking a 1-hour break for lunch and for dinner, the five of us sat at a long wooden table as a very low turnout of voters approached (we had about 200 people all day come to vote).
A couple of highlights/lowlights I wanted to share:
— This amazed me: We were three Democrats and two Republicans, all politically active, sitting and talking for a whole day. And the amount of time we spent talking politics? Maybe five minutes, total. I guess we didn’t want to argue, but really, we just enjoyed each other’s company. I feel like after 15 hours I could tell each person’s life story pretty well. We never ran out of things to talk about.
— Our voting process couldn’t have been simpler. And yet a few people were legitimately confused during the day.
— Carmela, Alan and Parma, the “regulars” here, struck me as being like a little family. They see each other only once or twice a year, but instantly fell into a familiar rhythm. Truly, I really liked these people.
— One of our highlights? When a man accidentally circled both “yes” and “no” on his ballot.
“We’ve got a spoiled ballot!” Alan yelled (that’s what they’re called). Hey, it was exciting, and broke up the monotony.
When the night was over and we’d packed everything up, it was my job to drive the results over to the local police station (after reading the vote totals aloud to the four of us. Seriously, I was legally required to read them out loud).
I dropped my suitcase off, drove home, and collapsed on the couch, totally wiped out.
Ensuring democracy can be exhausting sometimes.

**Probably my all-time favorite name in baseball was Stubby Clapp, who looks exactly like what someone named “Stubby Clapp” would look like. I just thought it was possibly the worst name a person could have.  To get the nickname “Stubby” isn’t great, anyway, but pair it with Clapp and you’ve got a moniker that’s impossible to live down.
Anyway, my man Stubby is a minor league manager with the Tri-City Valley Cats in Troy, N.Y., these days, and he went a little nuts when the umpire didn’t agree that one of his players was hit by a pitch.
The most awesome part of this story? After this tirade, the batter actually was hit by the next pitch!

A wonderful documentary about America’s newest citizens. Big men shouldn’t waterslide. And the worst soccer dive you’ll see

I went looking for a palette cleanser on TV last Saturday night.
Something that would remove the sour taste of the last few weeks of debt ceiling wrangling in Congress, resulting in a deal Barack Obama signed that no self-respecting liberal could possibly find solace in.
I wanted something optimistic, something positive, something I could feel good about.
Found it on HBO. Alexandra Pelosi, a filmmaker and daughter of Nancy Pelosi, has made a wonderful new documentary called “Citizen U.S.A.” She went around to all 50 states and interviewed the newest Americans: people who just been sworn in as naturalized U.S. citizens. I learned so much from this documentary, not the least of which was that apparently there are some Hindus in North Dakota.
So many of the stories these new Americans told were illuminating, in small ways. There was the Iraqi man who said he knew he wanted to be here when he saw an American walking his dog on a hot summer day, and the dog had socks on his paws (to avoid the scorching pavement).
“In Iraq many people would love to be treated as well as that dog,” he said.
I also loved the woman who said she knew this was a great country when she saw every car stop when a bus stopped to let children off.
Or maybe my favorite was the new American, Dusanka Wells of Slovenia, who said we all have it so good here, “but everyone is always complaining.”
Pelosi lets her new citizens speak, and it’s truly wonderful to see. When you hear a gay Iraqi man talk about how wonderful it is that he can hold hands in public with his boyfriend here, and listen as a midget talks about the incredible rights those with disabilities have, and a Portuguese fellow discusses how we take for granted that clean water comes out of your faucet, you start to feel a lot better about this country of ours.
Check out the documentary when you can; it’s on HBO on Demand all month, and I’m sure HBO is running it on its 47 channels throughout the month as well.
It will make you feel better about America. I promise.
And after seeing it, you might even wait 20 minutes before bitching about the country again.

**This is what happens when a really big man goes down a waterslide really fast and tries to land in a kiddie pool.
I can’t stop watching this, and yet it hurts so much.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

**OK, one of the major reasons I can’t take soccer that seriously is that the players’ diving is ridiculous, and makes other sports’ fakers look downright virtuous when they take a tumble.

Like here, check out Peter Wisgerhof of a Dutch pro team. Watch the replay at :19 and you’ll be “stunned” at the lack of contact.