Wow, is it harder to vote with a baby.
I was worried about lines, so I elected to use the earthling's stroller. It is very large and contoured and scary, with many wheels and features and options and a sunroof. It is the SUV of strollers, basically. It even has drink cup holders.
Unfortunately, driving it is like driving an SUV, too. (I also wonder if you'd need an SUV to transport it. Are these things supposed to fold up?) I suppose if we'd worked harder with it, I'd be good at it by now, but instead I devoted my energy to slings and wraps and as a result I view the stroller with considerable fear. (Yes, I know that eventually the earthling will be too big for his Maya wrap, and then I will have to face the stroller. Sufficient unto the day, thanks.)
But it occurred to me, while I was preparing to vote, that if the lines were really long, I might want to put the earthling down; having him the sling for hours and hours is hard on the back. And we live two blocks from our polling place, and I've been there many times and there is lots of room for strollers and it's all very level. So I put the earthling in his stroller. He was surprised but game, which is always his reaction to the stroller; he uses it so infrequently that I think it's an entirely new thing to him each time. And we headed off to the polls.
Where we discovered that things would not be going as smoothly as I'd hoped. Our polling place is an elementary school, and normally the polls are set up in the cafeteria/auditorium. This time, they set up the polls entirely in the teeny elevated stage part of the cafeteria/auditorium
Let me just repeat that: elevated. Stage. You had to go up a steep flight of steps outside to get into the polls, and the entire area was surrounded by steps. And I was driving a giant stroller I don't really know how to use.
What I should have done was unpacked my stuff, picked up the earthling, and left the stroller outside on the grounds that no one was going to steal a stroller, and if they did, it would serve me right for trying to use it. Instead, I attempted to navigate up the steep steps.
I know there is a way to do this. And I do know how to get up or down a few steps. But the steep steps defeated me, and I was seriously considering turning around and going home (and returning with the earthling in his sling; I was damned well going to vote today) when a random exiting voter said, "Okay, you take the back, I'll take the front." And we hauled that sucker up those steps.
Random voter, know that I love you. A lot.
The line was not as long as I had feared - just six people ahead of me, which is the virtue of voting during working hours in my area. Of those six, three had never voted before (which they shared with pretty much everyone; apparently they were nervous). One required a provisional ballot.
There was a very different composition of voters than I usually see. (Best Beloved and I vote at every election. You could send us a ballot for two Water Board members and a judge and we'd still go vote.) Usually it's just me and two old people, plus the guy I see at every election. (He is the man who says "thank you"; he thanks pretty much everyone in the building with great sincerity. I have been thanked by him, many times, even though I never do anything but stand in line near him. So I'm not sure what I'm being thanked for, but I always tell him he's very welcome. He came in while I was in line this time, and ended up one behind me. He did, in fact, thank me. He also noted that I now have a baby. I'm alarmed to think that I'm as recognizable to my fellow Persistent Voters as they are to me.)
This time, there was another person my age. There was even a person younger than I am. That never happens. Ever.
So I was pleased. The earthling was less pleased. I had forgotten that he considers the stroller acceptable only when it is in constant motion, because it is pretty boring to be down below eye level if you're holding still. So if you stop for too long, he starts making loud noises designed to attract attention - not cries, no, but squawks and yelps.
This did, in fact, get him a lot of attention at the polling place. I hastily hauled him out of the stroller and made a mental note to explain the difference between positive and negative attention when he's a little older.
So I was now holding a baby, pushing a stroller, and still trying to sign my name and get my ballot and go vote. I managed - the earthling graciously consented to be put back in his stroller while I inked my ballot, mostly because a poll worker came over and told him he was extremely cute - and then I had to get out.
There was no helpful lady waiting to get us down those horrible steps. But I remembered that ours is a disabled polling place. It has the little symbol on it. Which had to mean that there was a way to get out without going down the steps.
If you ever want to acquire a great deal of sympathy for people in wheelchairs, plus appreciation for the ADA (and a firm conviction that it does not go nearly far enough), try going around with a stroller for a while. You will discover that "disabled access" does not mean easy disabled access. It does not mean disabled access that is not embarrassing and uncomfortable and scary. It just means that, technically, there is a way to get a wheelchair through there.
To get out, the earthling and I had to use a scary lift thingy. To get us to the scary lift thingy, the poll workers had to basically take apart and rebuild the entire polling place, because, well, did I mention that it was on a very tiny raised stage? There wasn't room for a stroller or a wheelchair to maneuver.
The rebuilding effort did not make us popular with the people in line.
Then we got to the lift, which required a person outside the lift to operate. Which meant we got locked into a large metal box that was just barely big enough for the earthling's stroller - I kind of crammed myself in around the edges, wondering what someone in a very large wheelchair would do - and then we sloooooowly rumbled down into the netherworld of the cafeteria. And then we waited while the person operating the machine sprinted around, down the steps, and to the other side of the lift. And then tried to figure out how to get us out.
I am guessing that if you're in a wheelchair and claustrophobic, you just never leave your house.
Eventually we got released from our box. But at this point, we were in an area where voters weren't supposed to be. We had to go out through the kitchens; the kitchen workers told me to go to the office. I didn't understand why until I got onto the school grounds - the kids were there, so all the gates were locked.
And the office wasn't labeled. And I had never been in that part of the school before.
We wandered around for ten minutes while the earthling expressed his delight - he was moving! And he was in a brand-new place! And people were looking at him! Hi, people! - and I felt more and more conspicuous and uncomfortable. The area was full of teachers and kids, and the way everyone stared made it very clear that we were not supposed to be there.
Then one of the kitchen workers came running up and directed me to the office. She even held the door open for me. At that point, I just had to wind my way through a bunch of cubicles and find the unlabeled exit door, and I was free.
Best Beloved, as usual on election days, had to arrive at her library at an ungodly hour so she could open it for the poll workers to set up. So she went to vote when she got home.
She did not take the stroller.