OCT 15, 2011

Hello again. I think it is time to write something.

I got called up for jury duty. I was at superior court this morning, after getting a summons for jury duty. So I sat there with about 200 other people who had been Shanghaied, no compensation, from their jobs, kids, etc.

But when I went up to the clerk to apply to be deferred to next week because I had a civil court date this week, she looked at my summons and noticed the "occupation" box was empty. What was my occupation?

"Oh, I am on Ontario disability Support Program."

You could see the alarm bells go off in her little mind. Scribble, scribble. Plonk down a big stamp on the document. Hand it back to me. I am exempted from jury duty.

"Oh no! I really want to be on a jury."

"Uh, we'll send you a notice explaining it."

No, I wanted to know exactly why I am "exempted" from jury duty even though I do not want to be.

This went on a bit. She kept stammering that something would get mailed to me, and could not seem to get it that I really wanted to be on a jury. Probably one of very few people there who did, and who had the free time to be on one.

This is discrimination, by golly. If I did not have so many other pots on the stove, I would look into this some more.

So I went over to Eaton center and stopped in at the Apple store. Gee, it is so sad about Steve the Job. He was three months younger than me. I have read a bit about him.

Somebody made a nice movie about him and Bill Gates; I think it was called "Pirates of Silicon Valley". He was a nasty, nerdy flake. However, he made good products. I like the idea of a complete system in which everything you get is designed to work with everything else.

And it is secure. Usually the stuff never dies, although I had one computer that I think was just a dud; always had weird things going on with it. But I have never had a virus, even though I know there have been many attempts to send me one.

What I am curious about now is an iPhone, now that the price has come down. Soon I need to put this old clunker cell phone I now have, out of its misery. And I will get a little money soon, from elections Ontario.

I got to be an SDRO in the provincial elections. The acronym is Supervising Deputy Returning Officer; a real power job! Actually, all you do is get the bitching from all directions. It only pays slightly more than just being a DRO handing out the ballots, and is even more boring.

I supervised four polls at this big, glass walled recreation room in a social housing complex; eleven people altogether. It had the usual type of TCHC idiots in control and the usual idiots living in it.

The ag started the night before, when I came to check that the place was actually there. I found it torn apart and under construction. I found the building super, the worst kind of stuffed shirt. How many tables did I need? I did not know, at least four. I had not found out how many polls I had yet.

"What do you mean, you don't know?"

"Is the place going to be ready tomorrow?"

"You trying to tell me how to do my job?"

"Look, just get the place open at eight tomorrow." Pft!

So, the next day, things were hectic for the first hour. One of the DROs did not show up. I had to call in a replacement. Then he showed up five minutes before opening and was amazed that he no longer had a job.

I tried to get this cranky superintendent to bring more tables. "Ya, ya, ya, you said yesterday you needed four! I want to know what is going on here?" He was on the phone to elections office.

We also needed the washroom open. He was going to give me more nonsense, trying to make me look stupid, prove he is in control. I told him to get out of the room or I would get the cops in to charge him with interfering with the election.

I found enough tables, arranged them, and opened on time. The area manager showed up and had a talk with the super joker. Ya, ya, yah. I was supposed to look like I am crazy. Yaga, yag. The area manager gets the wash room key out of him, but he has to agree to let the information officer hold it, and we can't leave the door ajar. Pft!

So, things got running smoothly. The people generally knew what they were doing.

We had one problem voter. She was in a motor wheelchair. She came in early to vote. Then she came back about noon, drunk, with a Cathy Crowe the NDP candidate's sign fixed to her chariot. She started demanding to vote again and telling everybody loudly to vote for Cathy Crowe.

I got her out of the voting room. She hung around the hallway shouting that she was an aboriginal and did not have to follow our rules. I called the cops to get her to move away from the entrance. She finally moved away on her own and I cancelled the call.

The area manager came back with the stuff we did not have, especially poll report forms for the replacement DRO. And, a poll key that made the revision officers job much easier; he could tell people who showed up at the wrong poll where they had to go to vote. We could not get name tags identifying us as poll workers, it seems they ran out of them.

It was a warm day and it started getting hot inside "the bubble". One of the other caretaking people in the building came by and turned the air conditioner on for us.

One of the DRO's had never done an election before and had not been listening when they told him to bring food because he was going to be locked in for 13 hours. He wanted me to let him go out for five minutes to find a fast food place somewhere. No, if you do that you will be considered to have quit; check the rule book, paragraph number ya-yah. He did not seem to have much luck getting a pizza shop to deliver to the voting place.

His poll clerk, who had worked on many elections and really should have been the DRO, was very small. She told me she was getting tired of listening to him complain about how hungry he is. I told her to watch out, he might resort to cannibalism and she chuckled a bit.

These were buildings for disabled people, including mentally disabled. Some of them were very slow to understand things. Several of them had trouble figuring out the difference between the Liberal and Libertarian party. Some returned their ballots because they said they did not know any of these people.

Some of them were at the wrong poll. Residents of some buildings in the complex voted at a different polling station, a couple of blocks away. One old guy had a very hard time figuring out where place was. He kept repeating the name over and over. The information assistant took him outside and showed him where the pathway was that led to the street, from where he could see the center across the street. Then the IA went back inside.

So the old guy sat on his motor wheelchair for awhile, looking up the path. Then he turned and went down a lane going the opposite way until he came to a dead end. He sat and stared for awhile, then turned around and went back to the start of the foot path. He sat looking at it for awhile. Then he turned around and went back into his own building.

It was sorrowful. He had probably lived in that building for decades, yet had no idea what was in the immediate neighborhood or how to find his way around in it.

The mechanized Cathy Crowe fan showed up again at about 6 pm, after consuming many more spirited beverages. I had to stand in front of her mini tank to keep her from coming in. This freaked out some of the people, they were worried I would get run over. She ran into the walls and almost knocked over the information assistant's table as she backed out.

The scrutineers showed up. Mostly they were nice people. We got exactly one really obnoxious scrutineer, from the Conservatives. He complained that the information assistant was accepting I.D. which did not have people's addresses on it. We tried explaining to him that this was just to find out what polls they voted at. If the clerk found that the voter is not on the list of electors, then we had to verify his address.

He still did not like that. I told him to go ahead and file his complaint but don't bug my people.

Close up time! This is the fun part about working on an election. After sitting for 13 hours in an oxygen deprived environment, we had to perform a complicated task that must be done right, or else figure out where we made the mistake. The DRO had to balance ballots given out with ballots counted, and names crossed off. If he did not, she went to the central office with me and they sorted him out.

I always managed to balance up when I worked as a DRO. That may be why they made me a supervisor. However, I was not that much help to the DROs; I was just as frazzled as them by then.

The cranky scrutineer decided to focus on one DRO and give her a hard time. He wanted to challenge just about every ballot. The DRO told him that the rule is, they can mark it in any way, and if it is clear what their intention is, it goes. He did not agree. I agreed with my DRO and he decided he was going nowhere with this and desisted.

There were a lot of spoiled ballots, with several people marking both the liberal and libertarians, and a lot of people voting libertarian. One DRO theorized that these libertarian supporters thought they were voting Liberal. I thought that was a sound theory.

The starving DRO was out seven at first and was just about crying. I told him that usually if you are out at first, you think about it a bit and realize why. It turned out he had forgotten to include the declined ballots. My, my, was he ever happy to discover this.

Within an hour they had balanced up, packed the boxes away, and gone home. I was left alone to call in the vote count and then call the cab to take all the boxes to the office. While I was doing this a delivery driver knocked on the door; "someone order a pizza in here"? No, not that I was aware of.

The cab pulled up and I loaded the boxes in it. The inebriated, motorized, aboriginal elector appeared and demanded that I let her in the building because she had lost her key. "Sorry," says I, "its all locked up for the night. Call security"

I was one of the first people to show up at the office. I even had everything in order. Good boy. Go home. So I arrived home just in time to catch the result being declared on T.V.

It was very good news. I like minority governments, you always get better and more progressive government than otherwise. And I was very relieved that I would not have The Crowe as my MPP.

This riding is almost surrounded by NDP but they never do well here because they always put up these opportunistic people from the Wellesley institute as candidates. I do not know how to explain the local politics in downtown east Toronto.

But that is enough. I do not think I will be accused of prejudicing the vote as an employee of elections Ontario because the vote is now long over. If any election needs poll workers, from Poll Clerk up to supervising DRO, I will be there. It is a good job for somebody like me, one of the few good employment opportunities around these days. Whatever the difficulties, at least you know you will be treated justly and paid. tr