Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Journey to the Polls

About two weeks ago I got a nice glossy postcard in the mail from President Obama telling me why I should make sure to get out and vote on the 2nd. It also told me where my polling place was. The polling place listed was not familiar to me so I kept the nice shiny card for future reference.

Voting day arrives today so I take the card to the job with me, so I can look the address up on the GPS unit thingy in the van. That shows me that my polling place is located in what I think to be a rather odd place. So when we get home from work, I go to the computer and look the address up on MapQuest. MapQuest shows me the same place the GPS unit did. Hmmmmm. Ok. That's where we will go then.

So with MapQuest printout in hand, my Other-Half and I set out to find Liberty Street. (Yes, my polling place address is on Liberty Street. Really.)
Liberty Street turns out to be not much more than an alley. A dead-end street with four run-down looking duplexes across from a bar long since closed and an industrial building. And this Liberty Street is on South Side. South Side being part of the city but we don't actually live in the city, we live in a borough.

Villages and townships and boroughs and all the other podunk hideyholes large enough to have their own mayor but yet too small to have their own postal address have been a thorn in my side ever since moving to these parts but that is for another day. On this day, at this moment, I am just wondering why the postcard, and MapQuest, and the GPS unit thingy, all sent me to an address in the city when I live in the borough. Even I know that I wouldn't be voting at a city location when I'm a borough resident.

Now I'm doubting myself. Did I read the address wrong on the postcard? Did I make a mistake? Certainly it's not a Democratic conspiracy to keep people from voting by sending you to fake addresses.
So I get my voters registration card out of my wallet. I had remembered last night to dig it out of my desk just in case I needed it today ... On the back of my card I now notice it tells me my polling place. Which is NOT Liberty Street. It's the municipal building in my borough. Exactly where I remember voting last time.

So ok, we will head over there. But since we will be in the neighborhood I want to stop back home first, to get that postcard. So that I can double-check the address on it and settle my own unease that perhaps I read it wrong. When we get home I find a large glossy flier on my doorknob, courtesy of the Democrats again, telling me where my polling place is. Liberty Street! Ahhh! We were just there. There is NO polling place there! It's a conspiracy afterall!!

So we head to the municipal building. Ya know, where I voted last time and what's noted on my voter's registration card. But nothing. Dead. No voting go on there.
Now, the municipal building houses the borough offices, fire department, and police department. There is a lower lot where the police and fire people park, and where the entrance to the police department is. You can't park there. You have to go to the upper lot to park, where there are two doors to the public offices. Someone in there ought to know where the hell I'm suppose to go to vote. So we park.

The main door has a sign on it. "Closed. Please use other door." With an arrow directing to Door #2 over to the left. So I go to Door #2 on the left and that has a sign. "Code Enforcement Only. All others use other door." With an arrow directing to the left, to the stairs that go down and around the building to the police department door.

Now, I have been to the police department before. (For those of you who remember my Carbondale years, no, I have not yet outgrown parking tickets.) I know that the police department door has a sign on it that says "Please ring buzzer and speak into the intercom for admittance. And please note that your buzz may be answered by the fire department." Now, I am NOT buzzing the fire department to ask them to ask the police secretary to call upstairs and ask the borough office people where the heck the polling place is! So to heck with my civic duty, lets just go have a drink and toast how swell the government is doing.

We stop at a drugstore four blocks from home. Which happens to be right on the border of borough vrs city jurisdiction. I ask the cashier if she knows where the community center on Liberty Street is. She has no idea, says she doesn't even think there IS a Liberty Street in the borough. Now the older lady in line behind me speaks up. "Are you looking for the polling place?". YES!!!
"I just came from voting" she says, "it's right behind the library". "You can walk to it from here" she adds, "just push the button at the crosswalk and it'll let you go right over. It's the little garage behind the library." The cashier chimes in that she knows where the library and the garage is, and says with a laugh "THAT is what they're calling a community center?". I don't know about that, but I do know where the library is. It's just a few blocks from home and probably no bigger than my bedroom.

So we head down the road to the library. And yes, there IS a little garage behind it, and yes, there is voting going on. Absolutely no labels on the tiny garage or elsewhere, but clearly a polling place by the activity. So we park and I go in.
There are two folding tables and three volunteers sitting at them. The woman closest to the door asks me to fill out a form. Ok, but I ask her first, am I in the right place? She asks for my last name and finds nothing. Then asks for my first name to check again. Uhm, ok, if my last name isn't in there, my first name isn't going to help ....

She doesn't know what to tell me but the jolly looking middle aged man at the far end tells me to come over, he'll help me. So I give him my voter registration card and he tells me the municipal building is my place. Uh, thanks, but no, I say, I have been by there, twice now, and there is no voting go on there. He says, "Well, it moved since these cards were printed..." UGHH! "They moved to Liberty Street".
Noooo!!! ..... This is like a bad dream now!

I tell him, I have the glossy postcard and the big shiny flier telling me to go to the community center on Liberty Street, but there is no such address, not according to my GPS or MapQuest, both of which sent me to a deadend on South Side. Jolly-looking middle-aged man turns out to actually be jolly and pleasant and patient. He first tells me to calm down (though I was ready to claw someone's eyes out at this point I didn't think it showed) then tells me where I am actually supposed to go and block by block direction on how to get there. I tell him that without pen & paper to write the directions on, forget it, its no use. How about a landmark instead? Do I know where the pool is he asks? No,I don't. I didn't grow up here, I don't know where The Pool is. How about another landmark. The ballfield? Uhm, no, don't know where that is either. Damn. BUT, I tell him, my mate who is driving, he'll know. "Well" he says "I'll go out and give him directions on how to get there just to be sure you all can find it." Thankyou VERY much, I say, but, I'm sure he'll know where it's at with those two landmarks.
Jolly-Guy also now tells me that as a member of the Lions Club he helped build the community center, and that as a "joke" they named the road it's on "Lions Way". The borough even put up a street sign that says Lions Way to thank and acknowledge them.
AHHHH!!!! THAT explains why noone knows where the hell Liberty Street is!

I thank him and head back to the car. Other-Half says he knows exactly where the pool and ballfield is. So we head there and finally, bingo!! Definitely a polling place!! I side-step the group of gentlemen outside still trolling for votes and go in. A nice suited man takes my name and YEEHAW!!! I'm finally in the right place!!
With a smile on my face and laughter in my voice - thanks to jolly-guy at last stop who righted my mood - I tell him briefly of my woes in getting there as he finds my paper to sign. He says, "Well, at least you are taking it in stride and still smiling, the last woman in here was FURIOUS that she had so much trouble finding her way ...."

So good gads almighty - an hour and many miles in circles later, I got my vote in today. Did you?