the true patriot

On Monday night, I stopped into Nordstrom. I was out browsing for a black clutch to use at a foncy wedding1 I’m attending this weekend, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to check out Nordstrom’s wares. Turns out that yeah, it could hurt. I hadn’t been inside the door for 39 seconds when a saleslady suddenly popped up, jack-in-the-box-like, from behind a counter and sweetly asked what I was looking for. Oh, yes, they had some of those! She dragged me straight over to the sales bin — I assumed this was a good sign — and rummaged around inside for a moment before turning up a fetching little evening bag. I am not one of those people who have an accoutrement fetish, but damn, son. This was a fine bag. I made a big show of pretending to look inside at the pockets, but I was really just searching for the price tag. And when I found it — eep! It was $163 on sale.

The saleslady was still standing there staring at me, awaiting further instruction. So I staggered around for a few minutes eyeing the other merchandise with feigned interest, the clutch awkwardly tucked under my arm as if I was actually considering buying it, while my mind raced. I didn’t know how to get out of this one. She was actively watching me, so I couldn’t just abandon the item and flee wordlessly as I’m accustomed to doing. What could I say that wouldn’t embarrass us both? In desperation, I finally set the bag atop the bin, put on my hugest smile, turned, and said to the saleslady: “I love this one, but I am going to think about it for a bit.”

Oh. That was … easy?

There was a row of doors just behind me, yet I strode off purposefully in the opposite direction in order to trick the saleslady into thinking that I was going to go browse around the rest of the store. Really, I was making a beeline for the other exit. On the way there, I passed by this rack with a shirt on it. And, well, I paused to look at it. It was a nice shirt, you know? Well-constructed. Slouchy without being baggy. It felt very soft, and it was kind of funky-looking — just how I like my clothing. And what I liked even better was the price tag. Holy shit, man. This shirt was $34, marked down from an original price near $100. Now that? That was more like it.

I bought it.

Now, okay. Let’s flip the track and bring last week back. Last week was when I started researching the measures for the November 2 consolidated general election. It’s this thing? You may have heard of it. Anyway, I’m registered as a vote-by-mail voter, so last week I started slowly filling out my ballot. I felt extraordinarily smug about the whole thing. I was smart! I was proactive! I was gonna fill out that ballot, and then I was gonna mail it in. Done!

Except it turns out that propositions involve a lot of pointed specifics couched in sleep-inducing run-on sentences. To wit:

“The District intends to structure the proposed bonds so that the estimated combined tax rate needed to repay all of the District’s bonds, including the District’s outstanding Bonds which rate is approximately $13.98/$100,000 of assessed valuation in the 2009-10 fiscal year, will not increase as a result of the issuance of the proposed bonds.”

Did you read all of that? No, you didn’t. See, this is why America is going to hell in a handbasket. Nobody cares about politics anymore.

At any rate, what with how long it was taking to sort through these propositions, one thing led to another and it was too late to mail my ballot in. No sweat, I thought. I’d just drop it off at a polling center on election day.

Yesterday was election day. Since the polls were open until 8:00 p.m., I figured I’d go straight home after work and park the car, then walk up to the old polling place I used to go to before I registered to vote by mail. I’d drop off my ballot, then pick up a few things at the grocery store, which was on the way back. Bam. Two errands taken care of, plus a nice little evening stroll to boot.

But then two things came along that threw a wrench all up into my works: a project that was taking me longer than it should have, and this site. That site was, I don’t know. It was like drugs, man. Every time I read to the bottom of a page, I had to click “next.” Had to. Get to the end, do it again. I was like one of those blank-faced people in a sad little run-down casino in a sad little run-down Nevada town, slipping another penny into the slot machine and hitting the button just one more time. Between this distraction and the Project That Wouldn’t Die, 7:00 p.m crept up on me fast. I had to go.

I checked over my ballot, got in the car, drove home, dropped off my stuff in the house, then walked up the street to the polling place. It was only seven blocks or so. I had my iPod. It was a warm night. Things were going swimmingly. Until I arrived at the center, that is. It was dark, and the doors were locked. The building appeared to be partially under construction. What? Huh? And then I suddenly understood why my ballot letter had listed a completely different location as my “official” polling place. A mild panic rose up in my chest. Really? Was I really going to miss out on voting because I’d heedlessly ignored the warnings and insisted on bumbling along my own self-satisfied path?

I don’t have one of those special phones with a special internet connection, so I had no way of finding out what other polling places might be within walking distance. I knew of only one other place to go — a junior high school on Cota St., the letter had said — and I only had a vague idea of where, exactly, that was located.2 I checked the time: 7:41 p.m. Nineteen minutes until the polls closed. I was seven blocks from my car, and a few miles’ drive from the polling place. I could make it, maybe — but only if I ran.

So I ran.

I was wearing really cheap black calf-high boots — the kind you suspect were hastily constructed from cardboard — and gripping a shoulder bag, so I couldn’t really run very fast. I was also wearing my brand new shirt from Nordstrom, which you may recall having made an initial appearance in this post about 323 paragraphs ago.3 This is where I need to tell you that when I cut the tags off the shirt yesterday morning, I was dismayed to discover that the care instructions said “dry clean only.” I generally go out of my way to avoid buying clothing like this because, well, I am too lazy and stingy to regularly go to the dry cleaners. But here I was anyway, wearing a dry clean only shirt, lurching and hobbling quickly down the street with my bag clamped to my side like a lopsided Quasimodo.

I didn’t stop “running,” except of course at busy intersections. By the time I made it back to my car I was sweating profusely. So much for my nice new shirt! Keeping one hand on the wheel as I sped down the street towards what I hoped was the junior high, I leaned over to fish some Taco Bell napkins out of my glove compartment and started swabbing at the back of my neck. Classy. Somewhere in there, Public Enemy’s “Rebel without a Pause” shuffled onto my iPod, which provided an oddly appropriate soundtrack to my race against the clock.

Finally — finally — I saw a building that resembled a school. There were no signs out front, but I decided to take a chance. I pulled over, leapt out of the car, dashed across the street, and sprinted across the grass towards the front door. I limped up the stairs flushed, damp, and breathing heavily.

Long story short? I made it with three minutes to spare.

I voted, you guys. I saved America! I’m a patriot!

Shit. Who am I kidding? We all know who the true patriot is, here.

My shirt.


1 This wedding is so foncy, it requires italics and a highly specialized misspelling of “fancy.”

2 Maybe this sounds crazy, but I haven’t felt the need to go back to a junior high school since I graduated from one. Consequently, how can I be expected to know where they are?

3 Aha, you say. So there was a point to that story after all!

5 Responses to “the true patriot”

  1. Oh, wow. I did almost exactly this thing yesterday, except mine involved lost keys, a child late for school, a conference call starting in 10 minutes and a 20-minute walk. So it was different, but I got all sweaty in my nice clothes, which is same-ish.

  2. Oh such suspense, for a bit there I really didn’t think you would make it but I’m glad the story had a happy ending! Well minus the sweaty dry-clean only shirt. I’m so glad my job does not require high-maintenance clothing because dry-cleaning is the biggest rip-off on the face of the planet. Worse than fancy coffee.

    I was briefly living in Ontario a couple of years ago when we had a federal election and I was determined to cast my vote in my home province so I mailed it in. Except like you, somehow time snuck by until it was too late to mail it. I couldn’t drop the ballot off anywhere in person, so I ended up paying to mail it overnight. Felt a bit silly but it was important because it my first time voting (only became a citizen a few years ago) and for someone terribly political not being able to vote was always torture. So it was worth it.

  3. I’ve been stupidly wearing dry-clean only outfits this week, in the midst of a heat wave. And it also has to do with clients from hell. However, I do not get to feel like my sweat and dry cleaning bills are in any way patriotic, so at least you have that?

    Also, Yay for voting.

  4. Thank God for the Internet helping me decipher just the one question on the NJ ballot this year. I very easily could have voted the entire opposite of what I meant to vote.

  5. Hilarious. I am glad you made it in time.

    And I hate dry cleaning. I have pretty much started either 1) washing and air drying, or 2) Dryell-ing any clothes that say “dry clean only.” I think it is a racket between the clothing manufacturers and some dry cleaning union or something. Anyhow, my deviant methods have worked well so far. 🙂 And that includes vintage dresses in pillowcases in a washing machine.

    Random related story: I once worked in a dry cleaners for 4 days during a summer break in college. Ugh….it was unbelievable the body odor that would come out of the arm pits of the “clean” dresses I had to iron. Four days of that and I ended up in an emergency room with a 104 degree fever. (I was okay though, but they never did figure out why I got so sick.) And now I try to avoid dry cleaners because I am cheap and I believe I can clean it better at home in most cases.

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