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!