The Voting Booth: (Also) Where Excuses Go to Die

I don’t hear excuses at polling places, do you? (Visit one to find out!) People tend to be nice to one another and there’s a sense of pride in the air. Maybe it’s just me, but standing in line at, say, a movie theater I overhear all sorts of moaning and groaning, griping and complaining, excuses and bullshit. Not so at polling places. Could it be because they quite literally host groups of people looking to follow through on a civic duty? Does that participatory feeling  – our basic right to vote –  somehow reduce a person’s desire to hear themselves rationalize and bitch? 

I enjoy walking to my elementary school polling place with neighbors of many years, getting all those sour grapes out of our system as we go. We clam up at the door, each of us growing reverent and and willing to follow instructions. There are usually about six of us; it’s a tradition and a community I cherish.

Despite the many years we’ve spent together, someone in the group will inevitably ask me (again) about my being an ex-felon and allowed to vote. I’m always happy to explain that, having paid my debt to society, the right was returned to me: that we made a deal, California and I. It hobbles along; I pay my taxes; we both try to protect it with my vote. Sounds corny – I know – but sitting in a prison cell, feeling disqualified from things of consequence, will do that to you.

So I’m extra sensitive to phony-baloney justifications for why someone couldn’t get to their polling station on time, or worse, people who behave as though voting matters less these days. If you think interacting with people from your community, accepting a cookie from an old lady volunteer, being courteous in the face of your neighbor’s stupid opinions, and watching ’em all treat an idea with such respect is lame, you’re the irrelevant one.

Coming soon to Bravo: “Abby Knows Best”

The Colorado opportunist mom who posted a clip of her 4-year-old blubbering over relentless election coverage is particularly galling. Mother and daughter, see, spend a lot of time with their car radio and they live in a swing state. So the clip features Abigael Evans being prompted to recount her sob-riddled complaint that she just can’t handle any more campaigning. Thanks to Balloon Boy, for all we know this might be take #7.

15 minutes of fame before age ten? Way to peak early kid. Yet the clip’s gone viral, and Abby’s being hailed as the picture of American campaign fatigue. *#@! really? A crying little girl is the measure of our resilience in the face of an election? What she’s really a picture of is how many Americans are woefully misinformed. Consider the source of Abby’s information: isn’t she likely parroting mommy’s driver’s seat protests? And how many adults will follow her lead? How many disheveled, beleaguered, campaigned-upon Americans will allow this snot-nosed kid to be the straw that broke their camel’s back, the one that stops ’em from gettin’ off their butts and going to the voting booth? Kudos to you and your mom, Abby: if you represent anything, it’s failure.

Which brings me back to excuses.

Indulging a description about the traffic that prevented someone from reaching the polling place two days after election day versus hearing a similar story from someone standing in line to vote elicits a very different response from yours truly. One gets either a derisive snort or a polite nod, whereas the other gets my full attention. I simply relate more to the person who made it through that door.

For the rest of the week, I’ll enjoy artfully angling that “I Voted” lapel sticker to elicit maximum resentment from the unpunctual, the unregistered, and the uninformed.

Rise people! Rise up and be counted. Who cares what your opinions are? Just VOTE!