Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sometimes a Dick is just a Dick

Sigmund Freud was the first to describe the phenomenon of transference, in which a subject transfers their feelings for one person to another person, or redirects their feelings toward an event on to a different event. It is not an unusual pathology in a serial killer, for instance, to believe himself to be the victim, and to transfer his feelings of guiltiness and rage onto those he victimizes.

I once had a rather difficult time with a mentally ill woman whose MO was transference taken to a stupefying level. She was assigned to the same precinct as me once when I served as a Judge of Election in Chicago.

Chicago. You don’t have to be crazy to be a Judge of Election here – but it helps!

The voting place was in the lobby of a senior center, of course, and of course the judges were all seniors except me. I was doing it for the cash – then 80 clams for about 15 hours of work – nothing to sneeze at when you normally spend your days pretending to fill yuppie coffee cups with decaf for crappy tips. Also, since I was politically active, I found that if you were working as a judge of election, the campaign office couldn’t make you stand outside the polling place on Election Day holding a goddamn placard or handing out fucking leaflets and taking the abuse of people whose inclinations ran toward your candidate’s opponent. The best part is that when I'd inform whoever managed the volunteers that I could not work outside of the polling place on Election Day because I was working inside the polling place, they were usually impressed and believed me to be an even greater martyr for democracy than they did when I was merely a campaign pawn. But really, all I wanted was to be inside in a semi-heated/cooled room on a semi-comfy folding chair, instead of outside in whatever hellish weather Chicago had decided to dish up.

So what for most people would have been a clear case of “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes” ended up being a win-win for me.

I learned a lot of things being a judge of election in Chicago. For one, candidates would absolutely come right into the polling place and bring you candy or donuts or whatever. I mean, in full campaign garb with aides and balloons and buttons and shit. And when I told them they had to leave because it is illegal to electioneer in a polling place, they definitely give me that “you’re new around here, aren’t you?” look.

Plus, there is, or at least there was, pretty much a cop assigned to every precinct in the city. Sometimes they would actually stick around for their entire shift, too. Yeah, Election Day is probably an overtime bonanza for cops. And cops are great to talk to because they have amazing stories. Unlike the seniors, who never seemed to have anything to say except that the folding chairs were very uncomfortable, and that they couldn’t hear me, and that the huge print on the registration documents was too small for them to read and I needed to read it to them so that they could then tell me again that they couldn't hear what I were saying.

Rinse. Repeat.

One year I worked all day with a younger cop who told me he’d been shot three times and stabbed once. All in separate incidents, too. His beat was in the infamous Cabrini Green housing project. I asked him who at HQ had it in for him and he just laughed and shook his head and told me that that was a story for another time. He was a cool guy, though.

That was the same year I had some asshole looking over the voting booth partition at his wife while she was marking her ballot. He was actually pointing at her ballot and criticizing who she was voting for! So, I told him to stop.

Me: Sir, you can’t do that.

Asshole: What? Are you talking to me?

Me: Yes, sir. You can’t spy on people while they’re voting, and you certainly can’t make comments about their choices.

Asshole: It’s okay, she’s my wife. (he resumes his criticism)

Me: I don’t care who she is, sir. You can’t do that.

Asshole: Oh, for Pete’s sake. (to his wife) Will you tell this girl that it’s okay?

Wife: Leave me out of this. I am trying to vote.

Asshole: (to his wife) What?

Me: Sir, if you’re finished, you need to leave the polling place.

Asshole: Are you kidding me?

Me: No.

Asshole: Oh, come on! Who do you think you are?

Me: I’m a Judge of Election, and if you won’t leave because I say so, then I’m sure this nice policeman will show you to the door.

I swear to god readers, that I said exactly that. And I swear to god that that fucking awesome cop took a step forward at that moment and rested one hand on his holstered department-issued .38 revolver, and with the other hand, gestured toward the doorway.

You know, it’s moments like those that make life worth living.

Another time, the polling place was in a firehouse, and we had to set up right alongside the engines. When I went to use the restroom, I noticed that a picture of Mayor Daley (fils), who was then embroiled in some rather nasty negotiations with the firemen’s union, was posted in the middle of their rec room dart board. Let’s just say that Hizzoner had become quite a popular target. In the middle of that Election Day, the firehouse got a call, and all the vehicle doors suddenly went up in preparation for the engines to pull out, and I had to dive on top of the judge’s table to keep our voting records from blowing out the doors and into the middle of Lincoln Avenue.

Or was it Halsted Street? I don’t remember. But I do remember the year with the crazy woman judge. First of all, she was a Republican judge, which was kind of crazy in itself, because there were no discernible Republicans in Chicago, and you usually had to wrangle some Democratic judge into playing the Republican just so you could fulfill your fairness quota and get your polling place open. Anyway, most of the day this crazy Republican Judge of Election sort of yammered away, kind of to herself, taking a moment out, from time to time, to announce to the entire room what tv show she was missing, and what she thought was probably happening on that show at that particular moment.

Then, for no reason that I could fathom, she walked into the middle of the room and decided to speculate, out loud, on the probable ethnic backgrounds of various candidates, and how their ethnicity would affect their ability to perform their jobs. She started by announcing that she was pretty sure that a particular candidate was a Jew, and that Jews were not the most trustworthy of people.

I was stunned. Several voters stared at her with jaws gaping. Seeing as how there was no sympathetic cop around that year to help me out, I grabbed one of her senior friends by the arm and hissed at them all that they had to stop her. They all shrugged. That was who she was, they said. You couldn’t stop her. After several minutes of absolute mortification, I finally thought to suggest to that crazy bitch that she was neglecting her ballot box-stuffing duties, and that seemed to bring an end to her discourse.

The next day, I called the Republican ward office and told them what happened, and said that I wouldn’t want that woman representing my party. I thought it was nice of me, considering how she was making a jackass of herself whilst where a large badge that said “Republican” in bold red letters. The woman on the phone thanked me profusely for calling. I thought that was the end of it.

Until I was called in to testify downtown at a hearing to remove her, officially, from ever being a Judge of Election again.

Yeah. I took 80 bucks away from a crazy old lady.

Anyways, during my testimony, her “defense strategy” was to accuse me of everything she had read in the statement that I’d made regarding her actions on that day. So, the crazy lady would stand up periodically and point at me and say, for example, “That’s nothing! You know what she did? She called the alderman a Jew! In front of everyone!” Or she would say “Well, she said that Mexicans didn't even bother to vote!” Or “Well, she said the ballots didn’t have to total up exactly right!”

And each time, I would reply, “No, that’s what you said.” Over and over, I corrected her, until I was so completely frustrated and worn down that I finally actually contemplated, for a moment, just confessing to everything myself, because it would have been easier than having to answer back to every one of her transparent fucking idiotic lies.

So, I suppose you all heard that Dick Cheney this week accused Obama of “politicizing the Justice Department.”

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.


Michael said...

Interesting. For all their blather on the beauty of open markets, Cheney and his ilk sure have no love for the free exchange of ideas.

Doc said...

"You know, it’s moments like those that make life worth living."

It has been my intimate experience that it's ALWAYS good to have a cop around when you need one.


Dad E said...

I love your Chicago political stories.

dguzman said...

You have such a cool life.

Hmmm... "campaign pawn" -- where do I sign up?

Liberality said...

I had a guy like that come into the library today and he was complaining about the health care bill being named after Teddy and how that was so aweful, bla, bla, bla. I shot him a look of intense disaproval before turning straight around and walking away. He followed me and apologized and then he STFU but yeah, crazy asshole.

Zoe Wiseman said...

So you've had issues with someone like that too. It's hair pulling. I have someone like that at the moment. Fun fun!!

Anonymous said...

Government by the people... it really is a beautiful thing and I for one am more than a little grateful for your service.

bubbles said...

Cheney and the crazy Senior Lady, yep, I see the connection! Scary that he is a hero in some circles, huh?

SJ said...

I second dguzman's comment. I'm never not amazed at your life's work. And when you, tired and frustrated, wanted to confess on the stand to what the crazy broad was saying, I thought of Jean luc Picard... "there are THREE lights, NOT FOUR!" (Seinfeld and Star Trek, that's pretty much my entire life's reference)

vikkitikkitavi said...

@SJ - What can I say, George likes his chicken spicy.

kittens not kids said...

i am jealous beyond belief of the range of life experiences you have had. i know not all have been great, but dang. I mostly sit around my house by myself reading, when not teaching or slave-laboring at my local big bookstore.

"no discernible Republicans" funny, and also a dream of my life: to live in a place with no discernible Republicans. I grew up in a town with no discernible Democrats except me and my parents.

Bubs said...

I love this! My bride was a poll watcher during Harold Washington's first election in 1983, and she was assigned to a nursing home/high rise that had a polling place in the basement. She talked about the precinct captains literally walking the senile/barely ambulatory residents right into the voting booth and punching the ballot for them.

Bro said...

You reminded me of a "sharing the moment with a cop" story, for some reason all of the cops that I ended up working with on EMS/PD calls were pretty cool.

So picture Texas Avenue in Mount Laurel NJ, for some reason the street light wasn't working on that night, there had already been just since my arrival (in an ambulance with all the lights turned out) a smashing of glass sound followed a few seconds later by what was obviously a shotgun going off. Turns out I had a relationship with this particular shotgun but thats a different story.

So it was now quiet except for the sound of breathing (mine), two more cop cars had scooted up to the other side of the house and it was now time for the cops to make their approach.

I grinned at the cop, "you go shoot someone, I'll stay here", I imagine he just saw eyes and a manical grin. He glared at me as he started around the corner of the rig. It should be noted that that particular kind of shiny eyed glare is the only smile you can afford when your so focused that your facial muscles are turned off (we call that the eating shit expession) That kind of glare is also usually a promise of retriubution, it was way too long ago to remember how this particular cop got me back for that humor-of-the-moment but I'd be pretty sure that he did.

Come to think about it, you do this kind of thing with enough of the cops and you get along due to common memories, even if you dont actually like each other. That meust be why I thought that the cops were all pretty cool.