, Newburyport, MA

June 12, 2013

Having a ball at the ballot box

As I See It
Jack Garvey

---- — Voting can be delightfully entertaining if you don’t mind having your preferences known.

Thanks to the photo attached to so many public declarations of every kind of preference, I am no mystery to the folks at Newbury Town Hall. They know I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if he or she ran against rat poison.

Not only that, but I go out of my way to vote for the poison for which there’s at least a chance of a public antidote — to give it a chance against the poison that privatizes so much.

Primaries are most enjoyable because poll workers must ask if you take a Democratic or Republican ballot. Last year, when Panderman somehow prevailed over that large cast of calm, rational and mentally balanced candidates who typify today’s Republican Party, my neighbor valiantly tried to keep a straight face when I approached.

“Do you take — “

I cut her off: “Don’t tempt me!”

She took that to mean “Democrat.”

One joke backfired in 1988 when I actually had a candidate I could fully relate to: Calif. Gov. Jerry Moonbeam.

So sure was I that Democrats would pick the Age of Aquarius over the Age of Appropriate that I rashly vowed in the paper to wear a clothespin on my nose if I had to vote for Gov. Michael Technokakis over VP George Read-My-Bush six months later.

Looks harmless in all those cartoons, but try it sometime if you have to fulfill some perverse religious obligation for self-inflicted pain. Took it off as soon as I put it on. Mercifully, no one at the polls reminded me of my vow or asked why I was rubbing my nose and wiping tears from my eyes.

Either that or they assumed I exaggerated the claim, something that I never, ever do.

April’s special Senate primary election combined with a local election in Newbury, one of those ballots that always have several elections for offices such as fish commissioner that have just one candidate.

There’s always one office with no candidates at all, and long ago I started writing myself in, as if volunteering for a position that no one wants. Over the years I have received single votes for fish commish, as well as library trustee, tree warden and, if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me, liquid landscaper.

Rumor has it that Newbury’s next ballot will include the position of commissioner for the town’s new “Watertop Reclamation Project.” He or she will handle building permits — “wave waivers” as they are called when the tide is out, “insurance soakers” when it comes back in.

Nobody puts the “sub” in “subdivision” quite like the town of Newbury has these last few years.

In April I put my name in for a position I don’t recall ever seeing on a ballot: trustee for the First Settlers’ Burial Ground.

Spent the rest of the day wondering if I might actually win. Who else would want it?

If mine is the only vote, will Newbury give me the position by default? I swear I’d die for such a prestigious post. And hold it for all eternity.

Experience? Co-workers have asked me to explain why they can’t use cellphones while waiting on customers and exchanging money over a counter. So I have worked with the brain-dead, if not with those who are dead in the full and ordinary sense of the word.

If it’s a job fraught with forms and files, for which I’m completely unsuited, was my whimsical vote a fatal mistake?

Or, as I would have asked back when I was killing off my own brain cells, is it a job I can dig?

Walking into Town Hall, before I even knew what I might run for, I did gain a vote from a man I didn’t recognize, perhaps due to his shades and the visor pulled down over his brow. When he held the door open for me, I said, “Thank you.”

Instead of “You’re welcome” — or, speaking of brain-dead, “No problem” — he said, “Keep writing!” A nice vote of confidence, but it won’t count in Newbury’s town election.

It’s not grave enough.


Jack Garvey of Plum Island can be reached at and he approves this message.