Voting in the ‘Hood

I got to my polling place just before 8:30 a.m. It’s been in the same house for years. Voting used to be in the living room, but this time they set up the booths in the garage. I miss seeing the family pictures on the walls of the living room. The smell of fried food is still pervasive.

So as I ‘m walking up, a cop is giving a parked car a ticket. Avoiding parking tickets is vital to my fragile checkbook, so I asked her if I needed to move my car. She said no, that she was just giving that particular car a ticket. It had been parked on the street overnight (a no-no in Pasadena unless you buy a special permit).

Another voter overheard me talking to the cop and wanted to know what the deal was. I explained that she had just targeted that one car. Then the people working at the polling place got interested—Is it a white car? Yes, it’s a white car. Whoa! A guy sitting at the table leaps out of his chair and heads out to the street. The woman left sitting at the table–the one with the big book that you sign–was on her cell phone. She starts saying, “Uh oh, they’re fixin’ to take Johnny’s car. They’re taking my man’s car away.”

I was in speed voting mode…I wanted to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. But, I had to wait while the scene unfolded, because my polling place workers were dealing with a more pressing issue: the car that needs to be fixed and has been parked on the street for days.  Is the car getting towed?

There are so many issues on the ballot that will affect us in so many ways…maybe in ways we can’t even imagine. If Prop 85 passes…will a teenage girl who needs an abortion approach you for help because she can’t tell her parents?

Then there’s Johnny, whose car spent the night on the street illegally, whose momma’s house is my polling place. Is it on the street because he can’t afford to fix it? Why can’t he afford to fix it? Does he have a job?

And if he doesn’t have a job–why? Does he have skills? What’s his education? Did he have a job that got outsourced? Does he have a criminal record, and that makes it hard to find a job? Is he depressed after years of trying and not succeeding?

When Johnny came back to the table, he was relieved. His car had been on the street for a while and one of the neighbors complained, but the police didn’t tow it. “Just a ticket,” he said.

Yes, that’s much cheaper than getting the car out of the towing place. Tonight, I bet he rolls the car into the driveway.

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