Kevin Frisch: It's a wonderful Election Day
George Paley was despondent. Another Election Day was almost over and there were almost no local contested races in his town of Hedford Hills. The same names were running unopposed for the same positions they’d held for years. Sure, there was the presidential election. But that drew tens of millions of voters. George always felt his vote would matter more in a smaller election pool.
George didn’t know many elected officials — except the only one being challenged at the polls: the town’s assistant supervisor, Tank McCallister. He was an old friend from high school. They were teammates on the school football team, now known as the Hedford Hills Nondenominational Mascots. And they still made a habit of voting together every election.
George walked along a lonely bridge, glanced down at the river and, in a desperate and depressed gesture, tossed the postcard outlining his polling information into the fast-moving waters below.
He felt dizzy for a moment, then was startled to hear a voice behind him.
“Did you lose something?”
George turned to find a robed man, soaking wet, holding out his polling card.
“What the ... How did you ... ?” George seemed unable to finish a sentence.
“You look cold,” said the robed figure. “Let’s get a drink.”
The pair made their way to a tough little place near the river called Joe the Plumber’s and ordered a couple of beers. There was general commotion. It was after nine and local election results were being announced on the radio.
“Didja hear the news?” shouted one patron.
“Serves him right,” offered another.
“What happened?” George asked the bartender.
“That McCallister,” he responded. “Looks like he’s outta’ office — didn’t get a single vote.”
“Not one vote?” George responded. “How is that possible?”
“’Parently, he was off lookin’ for this guy he always votes with and never made it to the polls,” the barkeep laughed. “An’ he was the only one who knew where to find his name on the ballot.”
George recalled that McCallister had switched parties, joining the Patriotic Americans for American Patriots — a so-called third party that was listed way, way down on the ballot. In fact, McCallister’s campaign slogan was “Don’t be Shy. Vote Row Y.”
As George was mulling this turn of events, a bulletin came over the radio: Proposition 3 — the controversial measure that would prohibit state lawmakers from signing their own names onto the phony, oversized checks they hand out when announcing grants of what is actually taxpayer money — ended up in a dead heat.
George felt a wave of nausea. He sought out his robed friend.
“You there — where’s that ballot information?”
“Right here,” he responded, holding out the still-damp postcard.
“I’ve always voted, you know. Even when I thought my vote didn’t matter,” said George. “But ever since I threw that card into the river ... it’s as if everything has become a dream.”
“A dream, Mr. Paley? Or a nightmare?”
“If I see one more politician with his signature on a check the size of a mattress—” George shuddered.
“Tell me this, spirit,” he continued. “These election results — are they results that are or simply results that might be?”
“Hey, this is supposed to be a takeoff of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’” laughed George’s companion, “not ‘A Christmas Carol.’”
“Then I can still vote?” George asked hopefully. “I can still make a difference?”
A radiant blonde in a shimmering gown appeared alongside the robed man.
“You’ve always had the ability to make a difference,” she told George. “Just click your heels three times and —”
“Wow,” thought George, “this satire is all over the place.”
“— And repeat after me: There’s nothing like democracy ... there’s nothing like democracy ... there’s nothing ...”
“ ... Like democracy,” George mumbled as he dozed in a chair outside his polling place.
He was roused by the booming voice of Tank McCallister.
“Hey there, Georgie,” Tank called. “I always like to see a well-rested voter. Sorry I’m late. Are you ready to vote?”
George Paley was indeed ready. More than ready. Giddy, one might say. He sprinted into his polling place greeting everyone and everything:
“Hello, polling inspectors! Hello, sample ballot! Hello, you big, beautiful voting booth!”
And somewhere in the Election Eve sky, a star twinkled as George pulled the lever casting his ballot. And at the sound of the machine’s ka-chung, an annoying little girl nearby informed her father, “teacher says, every time a vote is cast, an angel gets his wings.”
And Tank McCallister was re-elected. And Proposition 3 passed. And for George Paley, it was a wonderful Election Day.
Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each week in the Sunday Messenger. Contact him at (585) 394-0770/Ext. 257 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.