Haven’t been funny in awhile. Thought I’d give it a shot.
November the fourth, two thousand and fourteen: Election Day.
Once upon a time today when I got off work, I swung by my polling place to duck in and vote. I weaseled my Explorer into a spot between a yellow jeep and a slick white expensive something or other 2014.
I’ve only voted one other time that I remember, which shames me a little, but I have also been out of state in the years since turning eighteen. Still, there’s this thing called absentee ballot so I cannot excuse myself.
None of that is part of the story.
I grabbed my wallet and keys and darted through the maze of people parking cars, people entering and exiting the polling place, and signs with large letters and neon colors. The first thought that entered my head when I reached the building was, “If everyone marked directions as clearly as this, I would never get lost or be confused.”
Your polling place might not be like this, but when you open the door to my polling place there is a sign with a large blue arrow on the wall just inside the door. In black block letters it says VOTING, and then the blue arrow.
And this sign is repeated every three feet. There’s no way you could go down a wrong corridor or mistake the women’s bathroom for the election auditorium.
If only highway signage was so spectacular. GPS would be eradicated. There would be no excuse for being late because you’d taken a wrong turn. You’d just have to be excused for being stupid.
So anyway, I make it safely through the long hallways and many left turns and one right turn to the auditorium where the voting happens. It’s a plain room. No signs in here, no neon colors. All black and white signs that say “Enter Here” and “Give your full name and residential address to the voting assistant” and “5” “6” “Center of the Room.”
Actually, there’s no sign that says center of the room, but it is marked by a huge X of tape on the carpet. Until you stand on the exact center of that X you cannot be helped by a voting assistant.
I waited on the exact center of the X for the voting assistant to wave me over. He did – a burly gentleman with fluffy white hair and bloodshot eyes behind his spectacles. He had a tiny American flag pinned to his suspender, and he looked up at me from under his eyebrows.
A long look from under the two albino woolly bears over his eyes. “Which one is the last name?”
“Lueck.” And I proceed to spell it because no one ever spells my name right. “L-U-E-C-K.”
He squiggles his nose as if it itches but he can’t spare the time to scratch it, and taps L-U-K-E into his computer.
Even from upside down I can see it’s wrong, but I don’t want to act like an upstart, so I watch his face. It takes a minute, but sure enough, his computer doesn’t find a Dakota Luke, so he looks up.
I smile. “L-U-”
“Wait.” He erases what he typed in. “Ok, go ahead.”
“-K-E.” He finishes for me, tapping it into the computer.
“No, actually, it’s a weird name. It’s L-U-E-C-K.” I check his ears for hearing aids, but the fluffy white hair hides them.
He makes an annoyed noise in his throat. I wonder if he’s been here all day. If he got lunch, or dinner, or even a packet of Famous Amos cookies. For some reason, I always expect there to be Famous Amos lying around at polls and blood drives. I’ve never even seen them in the grocery aisles before.
He erases LUKE, and types L.
“U…E…C…” I prompt slowly.
“No, sorry, let’s try one more time.” I am losing patience. If he would just listen to me, he would realize I know how to spell my own name. Imagine that.
So he backspaces again. “L,” he says, and looks up at me.
“U,” I say.
“U,” says he.
“E,” say I.
“E-K,” says he.
At this point, I want to throw up my hands, my taco, and yank him close to shout in that ear hidden under his Santa mop.
Instead, I shake my head. I don’t want his job. Ever. “Third times the charm,” I say brightly even though we’re on shot in the dark number five. “L-U-E-C-K.” I put extra emphasis on the E-C-K. Then I even pronounce it how it’s spelled: “Lu-Eck.”
And he still types it in Leuck.
I consider handing him my driver’s licence, or writing it on a piece of paper. This is getting ridiculous.
And lest you think I’m making this up or exaggerating, I’m not. The man really had no idea how to spell my name. Patience pays off, however, and one more painstakingly s-l-o-w time of spelling it one letter at a time and him repeating each letter after me paid off in a perfectly typed L-U-E-C-K.
It is so satisfying to see your name spelled correctly.
By that time, he’d forgotten my first name.
“Dakota,” I say loud and clear and kind, though I feel anything but. “Like the state.”
This connects, and he finds me in the system without trouble now that we’ve got L-U-E-C-K down pat. He obviously feels sorry for our tug of war because he offers me this bit of information before sending me to the next voting assistant:
“My wife had a dog named Dakota. Golden Retriever. Beautiful; she loved that dog to pieces. She still keeps his ashes in our bedroom.”
Like what do you say to that? Is there an entry in the etiquette books for when a complete stranger who’s just misspelled your name a whopping seven times tells you that his wife’s dead pet has the same name as you and it’s ashes live next to where he and his wife sleep?
I think I smiled, but I’m not sure I should’ve. That’s just creepy.
When I die, I hope my parents don’t keep my ashes in their bedroom.
I voted, I got my sticker, I got out of that place. Just managed to avoid ripping those obnoxious signs down on my way out – I mean, really, who needs a sign every stinking three feet? Why don’t you at least space them five feet apart? I backed out of my inky-dink parking space and fired off down the street, secure in the knowledge that I can spell my own name still, I love America, and that I have successfully avoided Famous Amos once again.