September 27, 2009

The Poll Workers

The several years a person spends in adolescence are restless ones.  You're too old to play children's games and too young to develop a serious interest in sex and drugs. As a result, you find yourself in a state of perpetual boredom, particularly during the summer.  My parents tried to keep me busy by having me mow the lawn almost every day, or picking up rocks that never stopped extruding from the Missouri soil.

My mother found a way to completely get rid of me one day by volunteering my services to distribute campaign literature at a polling place.  I'm not sure if this was legal, as I was only 12 years old at the time, but maybe such things didn't matter during those days.  I was told to report to the school that would act as the voting site at 6 in the morning, and I would stay there until the polls closed at 7 pm.  For my time and effort, I would be paid 15 dollars.  As I look on it now, this worked out to about $1.15 per hour, but I had no clue about money at that age, so 15 dollars seemed like a lot to just stand around.

On the morning of the election, my mother dropped me at the school, which sat precisely in the middle of no where, and drove off, saying she would be back to get me that evening.  After a few minutes, another mom drove up and dropped her kid off, who was to be my fellow campaign worker for the day.  Just before the polls opened, a lady drove up and handed us several boxes filled with a two page brochure featuring the candidate whom we would represent.  She gave us no instruction other than "hand these out" and drove away.

We opened our boxes and got our first glimpse of "our guy".  I don't remember the man's name, his party or what office he was trying to capture.  I just recall it was some obscure state position.

The first voters started to show up, and having no real clue of what to do, we just stuck out our hands with the pamphlets and watched as the people ignored us.  After 15 minutes of this, we got our heads together and came up with a catchy phrase to go along with our outreached hands. We decided on "We'd appreciate your vote!" However, our mumbled slogan matched with our prize winning scowls earned us nothing but dirty looks, and we quickly went back to sullenly sticking our pamphlets in people's direction as they walked by.

After several hours of this, we mentioned to each other that we were getting hungry and thirsty.  It was then that it dawned on us that both of our mothers had dropped us off with no food or water.

Following an hour of problem solving, we decided to go into the polling place and ask for some food and water, and also a place to take a leak.  The old bitch running the tables took one look at us and said in no uncertain terms that we were campaign workers and were not allowed inside.  Then she threw us out into the yard.

Voter traffic had slowed to nothing, so we ventured into the fields surrounding the school searching for food and a place to take a piss.  Between us, we came up with a few ears of feed corn, some blackberries and a couple of unripe persimmons.

As the day wore on, it became hotter and we became hungrier and more thirsty.  Delirium set in.  We began doing dramatic readings for each other from the campaign pamphlet and decided that the picture of the candidate closely resembled Peter Potamus, a popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon character at the time.  This was so hilarious that we asked people to vote for Peter Potamus as we tried to distribute the now-despised pamphlets.


"The Candidate"

In the last few hours before the polls closed, we made camp under a tree and fashioned paper airplanes and miniature pirate hats from the hundreds of pamphlets that no one would take.  Finally, my mother arrived to take me home, and I was too exhausted, dirty and sunburned to yell at her for leaving me to die that morning.

As it turns out, I never saw a dime of my promised 15 dollars, but I did learn several valuable lessons from my one and only experience as a campaign worker.

Never trust a politician.  And ... unripe persimmons give you diarrhea.

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