Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Well, y'know, I love to vote. First of all, to have an opinion about something is a terrific use of one's time. And then to be compelled to have an opinion as a way to fulfill the promise of a democratic experiment? Thrilling. I do not like to watch election results because it is less fun and feels like a sports game. I live in Philly; we take sports games personally and apocalyptically.
But I love to vote! I'm like a passive-aggressive parent in a gritty cable drama who provides an emotional backstory for the messed-up protagonist in that I like to push buttons. (Whatever I was attempting comedically in that last sentence, I'm not sure it's working but I'm leaving it in which I think is very brave.)
Since we moved back to Philly, I've been voting in a new polling place. The first 15 years I lived here I voted at South Philly high school, on the stage, which is of course where I always want to be. Some years they would have us come in the front door, which was unremarkable. But other years, they made voters come in this weird door on the loading dock that led to a dark staircase. They'd have volunteers stationed in various corners to give you directions but it had the feeling of walking through a haunted mansion or one of those creepy church carnivals where they take over a barn to show you all the different sins you shouldn't do. People would lurch out of the corner and rasp "WHAT'S YOUR ZIP CODE?" and I'd be like "AGH! I repent! I will stop drinking caffeine and listening to rap music!"
Anyway, I don't vote there anymore. And while my new polling place is much less terrifying and better lit, it is the rec room of a Catholic church and I do pass a photo of the Pope as I enter and leave, so the wages of sin, etc. continues to be on my mind while I do my civic duty.
When I voted this week, it was around lunchtime and, walking in, I was bowled over by the smell of oregano and balsamic vinegar and lunch meat. Every single poll worker was eating a hoagie, which feels like something from a skit about South Philly, but honestly the city is beyond parody. Like, of course, the South Philly polling place smells like salami and everyone knows everyone else and if you say "E... A..." at literally any volume the entire place will joining you in vociferously spelling the word Eagles. Does this not happen in your state? Sorry for your loss!!!!!!!
I approached the table for my ward and I asked them where they got their subs. All five women behind the table answered "Antonio's!" in unison. I'm not really sure what changed about our voting machines but what happens now is when you check in, the poll worker then gives you a long CVS receipt that you have to feed into the machine before you vote on the screen. This is fine with me because I like props, but I always get nervous that I'm going to lose it somewhere between the table and the booth, which is a distance of about 4 feet.
There was someone in the booth already when I checked in so I stood off to the side. It was taking them a long time to vote because this year we had a very long ballot. Usually voting is like "Should America continue? Y/N" but they got a little more in-depth this year. There were a lot of things happening with local and supreme court judges, for instance, which was fun to educate myself about. A number of judges were up for retention votes, which I think is a lot of fun and should apply to many more officials. It's not quite a recall, not quite a reelection. It's a "thanks but no thanks" vote. A "we're going in a different direction" vote. The person who was in the booth in front of me had brought her dog to vote and the dog had a lot of very strong opinions about a few municipal court judges, so they were having a long discussion. This same dog later refused to wear the "I voted" sticker even though the poll worker tried to place it in many different locations on his fur. The dog was like "wearing a sticker is performative!" He was fur-ious.
There was a poll worker sitting alone at a table beside the voting booth, eating her sub. She looked like a modern version of the lady who lives with Tweety Bird in the cartoons. Who was that lady? When I first thought of it, my brain said "Tweety Bird's aunt" but, like, that doesn't make any sense because Tweety Bird is a talking bird and she is a human Victorian dowager lady.
Tweety bird's aunt looked up from her hoagie and said to me "Want to hear a joke?" I don't really know how to answer that kind of question. Comedy? In a civic atmosphere under the watchful eye of the Pope? Seems risky!!!!
She said, "Why does Snoop Dogg carry an umbrella?"
First of all, I love that Snoop Dogg has so much cultural cachet that he's being named checked in a South Philly polling place. Snoop is the Antonio's of the rap world.
Second of all, I got a little nervous because I knew the punchline to this joke and it's "For drizzle my nizzle" and I wasn't certain that I was in the right space, spiritually, for Tweety bird's aunt to say "my nizzle" to me. I was like "Can we tell that greyhound to hurry up in the voting booth!!!"
Fortunately for me, Antonio, and the Pope, when I told her I didn't know why Snoop Dogg carries an umbrella, she answered simply "For drizzle." And not to be all "I often write comedy for a living though once again I have not been nominated for the Thurber Prize but nvrthlss I persist" but.... without the "my nizzle" the joke kind of becomes a thinker. It seems more like trivia. I was like "is this part of the citizenship test?"
She then asked me "What do the rapper Eminem and Italians have in common?" And I thought, Oh, this is a DEI workshop. I actually didn't know the answer to that one (my apologies to the Italian community and the Eminem community). She replied "Mom's spaghetti."
"Ah, indeed," I said.
She then went on to tell me four jokes in a row about bumblebees, which threw me for a loop because bees are not, to my knowledge, a cultural group. (My apologies to the bee community.) By the time she got to the third bee joke I started just answering her setups by saying the punchline, which made it not fun for either of us. Meanwhile, the dog was taking a very principled stand against stickers and I'd lost my CVS receipt. Just another day doing my civic duty in South Phizzle, my nizzles and NItalians!
See one of my plays next year!
Mrs. Harrison - Montgomery Theater in Souderton, PA - February 1-25 - More info
The Folks at Home - Alleyway Theater in Buffalo, NY - February 9-March 2 - More info
The Folks at Home - Indiana Repertory Theatre in Indianapolis, IN - February 20 - March 16 - More info
An Army of Lovers - Azuka Theater in Philadelphia - May 2-19 - More info
Random thing on the internet
I love everything Wesley Morris writes; his profile of Barbra Streisand is incredible, as always.
Oh, this is a DEI workshop,