Election Day Stories

Election DayHappy Election Day! I’ve put together some of my own Election Day stories, from what’s happened to me at the polls to how I got there:

  • In the mid 1990’s, when I waited tables at a truck stop Denny’s in Pennsylvania, we were the only Denny’s I’d ever heard of that served beer and wine. But on Election Day, we had to wait until the polls closed before we were permitted to serve alcohol to anyone. Over the years the law was interpreted in various ways, and depending on percentages of alcohol sales, some bars and businesses weren’t allowed to serve at all while others were allowed to serve after 9 p.m. The law has since been changed to allow alcohol sales all day long, although I did see an article dated as recently as 2012 that said South Carolina and Kentucky still operated under the restricted laws.
  • When I was in college, my parents would pick me up from school and drive me home so I could vote on Election Day. Then they’d promptly return me to school again.
  • Back when I was married, I went to the voting location according to where I lived, but they didn’t have me on the list. I’d updated my name, my license, and my address, but somehow, none of it updated my voter location. The volunteers at the polls told me I needed to prove my address, either with a bill that had my name on it (which I did not have) or I could have my husband come in and vouch for my address. I thanked them and went on my way—my way being straight to my previous voting location a few blocks in the other direction, the entire time muttering things like, “If my man will vouch for me, I can vote?? What is this, 1920*?”
    The voting location connected to my previous apartment address still had me listed with them, so I cast my ballot, collected my sticker, and felt good for circumventing the system—especially without needing help.
  • Twice, once in Minnesota and once today here in Pennsylvania, I checked in to vote and was met with, “Oh, of course. You wrote a book!”

Regardless of the outcomes today, I’m sure we all agree that we’re done with dinnertime election calls and candidate mud-slinging. Personally, I’m ready for the day when all political ads have to disclose where they got their mud-slinging information and how they computed their blanket statements—you know, the day where a non-attorney spokesperson has to read aloud the fine print on claims for prosperity and change similar to the way pharmaceuticals have to disclose the laundry list of side effects. “We’re selling a smart-inducing drug that causes headaches and temporary shrinkage of brain cells and some people may grow tails. We’re really overcharging for it, and we approved this message.” Now that’s entertainment.

I’m Jody Brown. I wrote a book. And I approved this message.

*Women were granted the right to vote in August 1920.

The Writer Goes to Kroger

The Writer Goes to KrogerWhen I lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I was a student intern at a newspaper. I was broke and writing and happy.

Today I sit, munching on Halloween candy, and I remember that back then I used to love to go to Kroger, the large grocery store chain that was open 24 hours a day. There was a giant, gorgeous Kroger near where I lived that had golden, inviting lighting, colorful food displays, and wide, clean aisles.

I had pretty much no money (some things never change), but I loved to just wander the aisles looking at all the food. Strangely, this exercise in futility didn’t make me hungry, and it didn’t seem to me to be futile, either. It was a comfort to know that all that food existed and that I could be in the presence of it all. I’d like to tell you I only did this once or twice total, but the truth is I used to go there at least once a week just to be near the food.

I liked to go late in the evening when the store wouldn’t be packed with tourists. At those hours, it was mostly just me, and some second shifters. They’d be buying small baskets of random items on their way home from work, and I’d be there taking mental note of what they were buying—things like candy bars, fabric softener, milk but in small containers rather than by the gallon, pasta sauce but no pasta, ice cream, things like that. I liked to imagine that they went home to quiet homes and tried not to wake anyone, how the items in their baskets perfectly filled the small voids in their cabinets. (I gave them orderly lives.) I also liked to imagine them sitting up late, watching TV with a spoon in hand, eating straight from the ice cream container. (Well, not entirely orderly.)

And I loved that they always had candy bars. It was late, they were done with work, they got through another day in paradise and they deserved it, by george. (This I did not give them; this was written clear as day on their faces.)

Oh, those candy bars. Feeling tired, or a certain sense of accomplishment, or just having reached a stopping place for their day’s work, the items in their baskets said so much about what was important, and what wasn’t. I learned quickly to bet on finding chocolate in the baskets. In the many years of shift work since then, I’ve learned why.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler who has waited tables in five U.S. states. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

Lug Nuts First, Lug Nuts Last

photoWhen I was 17, my dad taught me how to change a tire. “Lug nuts first, lug nuts last,” he said. He repeated it a couple times and had me repeat it with him. We went through all the steps, and periodically, he’d quiz me.

“What’s the rule again?”

“Lug nuts first, lug nuts last,” I’d say.

So far, the one and only time I actually changed a tire for real, I was 19 years old, living in South Carolina, about 800 miles away from my family. I was driving alone and was going to meet some friends, so I was wearing a dress. My tires were making an awful racket, so I stopped at a diner to check it out. Flat tire. I went inside to see if I could convince someone to come out with me while I changed the tire. One man volunteered.

“I can change it,” I assured him. “I just want someone to back me up.”

He was nice; he tried to be a gentleman and change the tire for me. I protested, but he insisted. Soon, though, I noticed him scratching his head over it, and at one point, I saw him doing something wrong.

“Let me help,” I said, and, dress and all, I got it done. One step at a time, like Dad showed me.

“Great job,” the man said, reaching to remove the jack.

“Not yet,” I told him. “I haven’t double checked the lug nuts. Lug nuts first, lug nuts last.”

Well-meaning as he was, this guy would have had me drive on that tire without making sure it was securely fastened to the car. Lucky for me, I remembered the mantra.

I’m now involved in a similar project: I know what to do, but it’s daunting. Really daunting. I’ll share details on the project with you soon. In the meantime, rather than give up, all I can do is work step by step.

So I’ll start at the beginning and make my way through each step, and before I finish, I’ll come back to the beginning again. I know the mantra. I won’t listen to anyone saying it’s okay to cut corners.

Lug nuts first. Lug nuts last. Here we go.

Thanks, Dad.

~

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.

What Took You So Long?

photoAs another Polar Vortex arrives, I find myself dreaming about the ocean. And I found this journal entry, from my newspaper internship days when I lived in Pawleys Island, South Carolina:

“When I first got to the beach, I was afraid to go into the ocean past my knees. You never really know what’s lurking all around you in that dark salty water, and just the thought of something being able to see you, and you not it…

But then one day I went in with friends and we all held hands. I felt like a little kid having to hold someone’s hand, but the others insisted that we were going to swim away from the shore a decent distance, and this would keep us together.

It was terrifying, and then: I realized the ocean creatures couldn’t just see me, but could see everyone else in our chain, too. Somehow, not being alone on the menu made all the difference.

The ocean became my third love in life, behind football and hockey. By the time I left I’d learned to love swimming and diving into waves where I couldn’t feel the sand under my feet. I was still afraid, but I could be brave.”

Because fear can exist without bravery but not the other way around, whenever I’m afraid I remind myself to stop and remember: bravery is close by.

And every time I’ve plunged headfirst into fear, there’s old Bravery waiting for me, patiently, and sometimes, with a bit of a smirk.

~
My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is on Amazon.