Writing in the Cracks

There are two things I do every November. One is National Novel Writing Month. The other is to serve as an election judge for my county. In theory, this is a perfect marriage.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and reality. In reality….

Nanowrimo is about learning to write in the cracks of time. If you have fifteen minutes left in your lunch break, you write. You show up early to the dentist so you have an extra ten minutes in the waiting room to write. If you can steal half an hour between the end of your workday and coming home to dinner, kids, and a spouse who wants to talk about the toilet, you pull over in the grocery store parking lot and write.

Election day is a day full of cracks. You get up at oh-dark-thirty, pack a “nutritious” lunch of caffeinated soda and Girl Scout Cookies, drive through the darkling, still streets to your assigned poll, spend a frantic hour setting up, remind the waiting voters that the poll opens precisely at seven and not a minute more and I don’t care what your watch says, and once the before-work voting throng has dissipated you crack open a sleeve of Thin Mints and settle in for the day.

I figure in an average election day there’s at least five hours of aggregate time-in-the-cracks. Most voters, once you check their eligibility and hand them a ballot, want to be left alone. A perfect time to get ahead on word count, right?

Oh, hell, no.

A poll is a minefield of distractions. If the voters don’t have questions, it’s your chatty fellow poll workers. The county has called to see how things are going; a journalist has stopped by to ask the same question. A voter needs to find the correct precinct. A kid asks for a sticker (of course you can have a sticker!). Do we want to order a pizza? Where’s the other box of cookies? Are there Samoas? I moved across town this summer, can I vote? I never registered, can I vote? I live out of state, can I vote? I don’t feel like driving across town to vote at the precinct near my house, can I vote? I just landed a flying saucer on the lawn on my way to Beta Centauri, can I vote? [0] A poll is a time-distortion field; two hours in you feel like you’ve been there all day, but as evening approaches you have no idea where the day went.

I can knit in this environment. On a slow day, I can even read. But I cannot write. This year, I didn’t even try.

[0] These are actual questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.