Monthly Archives: November 2012

the Death of Giant Effin’ Levers / or How I Missed the Point of Voting Completely

Voting broke my heart a little this time around. It wasn’t the election itself, or the incessant arguing of my hyper-opinionated political friends or even the uselessness of voting in New York state. It wasn’t the meaning or outcome behind voting, but the very act of it.

Anyone who’s cool enough to know me on Facebook (you’re welcome) knows that I became a bit upset over the revelation late Monday night that New York revamped their voting process. Well, maybe not process—let’s call it the voting mechanism.

Voting Machine Lever

the giant effin’ lever

In my expert opinion—it’s OK, I’ve voted before, clearly that makes me an expert—we’ve moved in reverse with our voting.

We’ve gone from solid American built booths with tons of switches, a curtain, secondary tape roll that backs up the tallied votes, adjustable height for the handi-awesome and (my personal favorite) the giant effin’ lever.

Now what do we have?  A scantron sheet you fill out behind some kid’s leftover science fair poster board before you scan it through some other machine—no, not that machine, the other one; what, you didn’t see the different district numbers painted on the bottom of the machine instead of clearly marked at the top to prevent you from trying to scan your ballot several times through the wrong machine?

New York State voting 2012 posterboardWhat?  Yeah, I just said scan.  After filling out your SATs where all votes count for Frank Sedita, you have to scan your ballot.  Yourself.  Privacy issues.

The Board of Elections Geriatric Brigade isn’t allowed to touch or look at your ballot, so when you have a problem—and this is me we’re talking about, so there will be a problem—they spend longer saying loudly, “I haven’t touched your ballot, sir” then they do actually getting the machine to scan the ballot.

Let’s all be honest here, you can swear up and down all you want Grandma Voting Booth, but when my ballot doesn’t even fit inside the ‘privacy folder’ do I really give a shit if you glance at my ballot when you help me scan it?  And the ‘privacy screen?’  You know, the aforementioned science project poster board?  You really telling me that works?

Also, who cares? You probably don’t even remember where you live, you’ve been at the community center so long, am I really concerned with you seeing who I’m voting for?

Look, we had awesome voting machines, better then any I saw during election coverage.  Hanging chads?  I think not.  Stupid Florida, get with the times.  Paper ballots?

Automatic Voting Machine Company adNew York had the greatest voting booths in the world, the envy of leverless voters everywhere.  And now look at us.  Using paper.  Coloring ovals.  Feeding my ballot into a scanner while Old Lady Election yells, “Yeah, stick it in there!  Like a vending machine dollar!  All the way!  Sir, I have not looked at your ballot!”

I’d prefer never again to hear that phrase or any variation of it from an old lady.  Unless I’m an old man.  Even then it’s gross, it’s just all sagging skin and—

Moving on…

So, later on election night, Commander Riker told me the reason behind this de-evolution of our voting process is that the company that manufactured these voting booths went belly up.  Then apparently burned all the manuals, schematics and at the point of bankruptcy all existing machines simultaneously vanished from the face of the earth rendering reverse engineering impossible.

With repair somehow no longer an option the machines had to be retired.  What?  There’s really no one out there who can repair these machines if they break down?  Granted, New York State is the last state to stop using these machines, but they’ve been around since about 1900, I’m thinking we can make these levers work.

And it’s important that we make them work.  Mostly for nostalgic and emotional reasons.  Like throwback jerseys.

The Board of Election’s strategy for greater voter turnout should mimic the tobacco industry’s philosophy: ‘hook ’em while they’re young.’

That’s what these voting booths did without even realizing it!

Apparently I’m pretty lucky in that my circle of friends are all hyper-opinionated sometimes legitimately informed and always highly vocal political experts.  They’re passionate about the political process and understand the importance of voting.  Also, they’re passionate about long-winded diatribes with a great deal of wild gesturing.

The point is, I don’t doubt that everyone of these living room pundits went to vote with their parents.  This creates little kid participation if you have those old voting booths.

Think about it—you take a kid with you to vote, just try to stop them from pulling that giant red-handled lever.  They don’t need to understand what’s going on, so the age of the child isn’t important.  There is a lever and they get to pull it.  That’s all that matters.

Even not understanding the complete scope of what you were doing, there was the comprehension that you were taking part in something incredibly important.  And you were getting to pull a giant lever.  And possibly get a soda.

Clinton playing the Sax at inauguration 1993That’s what I realized Monday night when we started talking about the absence of those old voting booths.  We all had variations of the same story.  Voting was as ingrained in our memories as watching the Buffalo Bills lose a butt-load of Super Bowls, as sitting glued to CNN during the first Gulf War, or Bill Clinton play the sax when he won his first term.

You go to vote with your parents, don’t understand what the big deal is, but this seems pretty cool.  And there’s a pop machine.  Play your cards right kid, and you could be walking out of here with a soda.

Your parents go through the boring crap—what’s your name, sign this paper, blah blah blah.  Then you go to the booth.  Lever goes, Wizard of Oz curtain closes and it’s showtime.

If you’re lucky that’s when they Melissa and Doug Locks and Latcheslift you up and tell you which switches to click.  You’ve had practice at this by the way, you remember that board in pre-K with the different locks and latches?  You crushed that.  Mini-levers in a voting booth.  Just give me a boost, I got this.

That isn’t even the best part.  Flipping the mini-levers?  Take it or leave it.  No, the best part is when you’re good to go.  There may be a countdown to build excitement, a drum roll, but it isn’t required.  The best part is when you get to grab the giant lever and boom!  Votes are counted, there’s a lot of loud clicking sounds that are pretty cool, and the curtain is opened!  There’s that last push at the end to get the lever to fully engage, remember?  You underestimated it at first; but then you slam it into place and those curtains open.

Automatic Voting Machine Company voting machineAs a kid, you just accomplished something very important.  You got that curtain open.  And you helped your parents vote.  That too.

Don’t forget, once that curtain opens, you get to turn around and gloat to the next person in line.  That may or may not be your brother and other parent.  Doesn’t matter.

You stare them down, take pride in what you’ve just done.

You just opened a curtain.

I’m a Bad Drunk.. No, Really—I Suck At It, I Can Barely Pull It Off

I’m beginning to think it may be safer for me to drink at home.  There have been a few occurrences lately beyond the normal ‘I’ve had a few too many ad think I’m driving home on a NASCAR track.’  No, it’s more serious then that.

Shuffleboard TableI was out at one of my regular places a while back with some friends; having some drinks, playing some shuffleboard, discreetly talking shit about the other people in the bar.

There was a new bartender.  That was the start of the problem—and that is a problem.  A bartender you know by name, and more importantly, who knows you by name—or at least face—is one of the most cherished of drinking mores.  Our regular bartender had to go and better himself, accepting a full time position elsewhere with a respectable multi-part title, health insurance, and a salary one can actually live off.  Pretty selfish, if you ask me.  What about our bar tab?  You’re doing great, but what about us?

Snoopy Sno Cone MachineThis new bartender looked as though he should be set up at a card table on his parents’ front lawn with his Snoopy Sno-Cone machine, not serving drunk passive aggressive shuffleboard playing nerds debating who has out-flanneled whom.

Maybe this was my mistake.  I’ve often been told I have poor communication skills.  Of course, the other side to that is people simply don’t listen to me when I speak.  It goes both ways.

But in a situation such as this, drunk to bartender back and forth communication is rather necessary for the survival of both entities; the drunk must drink and the bartender must be tipped, and to be tipped he must provide the drunk with drinks.  The proper drinks.  That should be specified.

So I go up to the bar.  That’s a pretty good start, I thought.  Standard guy hello follows, we nod at each other, and I lean over the bar a bit to say, ‘Can I get a gin & tonic?’  He nods during my brief pause before,   ‘and a shot of Jameson.’  I turn back to the shuffleboard game, believing all to be well in hand,  and allow the young mixologist to prepare my libations.

When I turned around there was a glass.  One.  Not two.  It was bubbly, it had a little red straw, a lime, and a certain golden hue.  In case you’re unfamiliar, a gin & tonic should not have a golden hue.

‘I’ve never heard of putting those two together,’ he said as he slid my drink(s) toward me.

‘Me neither,’ I said.

Now, some may have refused the drink, explained the mixologist’s mix-up and moved on from there. First of all, I’m much too much of a little bitch for that. Second, I had a shuffleboard game to get back to. There was no time for this. I drank the drink. Also, it would be a waste of two perfectly good shots of two perfectly good types of alcohol. I feel like that would get marked down in the bad karma column of one’s scorecard.

I don’t need that.

To be honest, the drink wasn’t that bad. I’ve tasted worse. Also, I’m very good at justifying my inability to stand up for myself. I’m not saying the Jameo & Gin went well together, but they didn’t go poorly. One liquor didn’t overpower the other. They worked together; each offered a subdued sampling of their own unique flavors in this monstrosity of a cocktail.

That being said, I made sure to order only a gin & tonic the next time I went up. And held off on the shots.

Jesse TV Show Christina Applegate

I wish this was the kraut bar I went to

I may have forgotten this incident completely were it not for another similar experience recently. A few friends and I had been at this charming little kraut bar for a couple hours, shooting the shit and chatting up the barkeep who looked astonishingly like Commander Riker, right down to putting his foot up on surfaces far too high for mere beardless mortals to put foot upon.

We were getting ready to call it a night; just one more round, one more smoke and a piss on someone’s car, and it was home to my couch. A successful night it would seem—until!

I close out my tab in the only polite way I know, which is to say, I order another pint and a shot of Fireball whiskey.

Riker pours my beer, he pours my shot, turns to—I assume—run my tab, and I throw the shot back.

Now, it is at this moment that time slowed down for me, and in the span of raising the shot from the bar to my lips, pouring it back and returning the glass to the bar, several things happened. They happened so quickly that while these realizations existed, it was more or less simultaneous.  Look, the ball was tragically already in motion.  Nothing I could do.  It went something like this:Fireball Whiskey

1. This Fireball looks lighter then usual.
2. This Fireball does not smell like Fireball.
3. This Fireball, that has just hit the back of
my throat, does not taste like Fireball.
4. Commander Riker just put a salt shaker and
second shot glass with lemon wedge on the bar.
5. I just did a shot of tequila.

In what language, in what world, does ‘fireball’ sound anything—anything!—like ‘tequila?’

I’d been in that bar just a couple weeks before and Riker had poured the group of us a round of Fireball. He even told us stories about how they used to mix up shots back in the 80s before there was Fireball whiskey,  that tasted just like Fireball whiskey. He remembered us, my friends and I, from the group.  More importantly I asked for a shot of Fireball. I had everything in my favor.  Especially the part where I ordered Fireball.  Instead, I swallowed the worm.

Drunk in Street

I give up

Basically, what I’ve learned here is that I shouldn’t go out anymore. I’m clearly incapable of operating any longer as a part of the drunk/bartender symbiotic  thing that until recently has treated me so well.  I have failed at drinking.

Look, I had a good run, but if I can’t even order a shot properly, then what good am I? I’m not sure what the point is, and frankly, I’m more then a bit worried about what I might end up with next—what, tomato juice and sambuca? yesterday’s coffee with a little umbrella?

How can it get much worse? No, it’s just not working anymore. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my room with a glass of water.

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