My favorite work holiday is Election Day. I love elections. I love voting. I just wish that everyone enjoyed it as much as I do. I want voting to be a pleasant experience for everyone. For myself, the poll workers, and even those other voters who are rising up as one to build a better nation. Growing up, everyone loved voting. The people who loved it most were the poll workers. They hung out all day, surrounded by the aroma of the church’s bake sale, shooting the breeze and catching up with the neighbors. They were always thrilled to see me and my sister, and let us look at the signature books and play with the model levers. They were the best sort of people.
My New York poll workers seem to be the opposite. They’re pensive, morose, and sometimes bordering on hostile. But I know that deep down they just want to be surrounded by the smell of cake and coffee and ask me about our local garbage pickup. So I smile wide, and try to make conversation. It goes like this.
Me: “How’s it going so far?”
Poll worker: “Last name?”
Me, after providing my last name, first name, and address – twice: “How’s your day been? A lot of voters?”
Poll worker: “It’s slow. Kinda like this all day. Not many people here.”
Me: “Seems -”
At this point, the poll worker cuts me off my handing my a ballot and instructing me to go vote.
I took this treatment for a few elections, before my persistent joy began to make an impression. I’d get an almost-smile form the poll workers, a few words about their day and the neighborhood. Then, I’d vote. It was a start. Three years in, and we’d have actual conversations – and they stopped trying to explain to me how to vote. They knew I knew, and that we had more important issues to discuss. Like what had happened to the street clearning schedule.
Then I moved to a new district. I didn’t have all the time in the world to become friends with my poll workers, so I took extreme measures. I started handing out candy.
My first election, I had big plans – I introduced myself, got my ballot, voted, and then came back and introduced myself again and gave them the candy. They thanked me.
My second election, no one recognized me – and I only recognized one of them. But I was undaunted, and gave them a bag of candy with a smile. One poll worker looked ready to hug me. The other smiled vaguely.
My third election, I decided to go all out. In addition to the candy – an assortment of mini milky ways, snickers, and kit kats – I wrote my poll workers a thank you note. This time, when I whipped out the candy – tied with a bow – and attached card, there were squeals of delight. They thanked me, they smiled at me. They called over another poll worker to introduce me. Finally, I can look forward to an election day with the joy it deserves.
I have arrived.