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.

Tables Have Turned: Where Bad Waitresses Go

book-from-dawn2.jpgAt one particular restaurant where I worked, I was made a trainer for all the new hires. I designed a training schedule, and I taught the first two shifts. After that, someone else from the staff would train in the new person, so that a completely different perspective could be gained. Everyone has their own technique, their own strengths, so to train only with me was to miss out on that, in my opinion.

Most trainees made it through. Others didn’t make the cut. It was fairly fine dining, and not the easiest of jobs to pick up. It required a lot of mental and physical work, and there was a lot of money in it. There really are people suited to helping others in a serving capacity, and people who are not cut out for it.

I tried to give every candidate my all. I felt bad when the bosses and staff felt that someone wasn’t going to make it, but I took it as a sign that that person was meant for better. I remember once (and once only) when the permanent staff scoffed that a particular trainee couldn’t get the hang of it. I’d spent the time with that trainee; I knew her better than anyone. So I carefully pointed out, “She came to us to decide if she should keep her day job and add in table-waiting or if she should stop everything and go to medical school.” [It might have been law school or nursing school or writer school. Anyway, it was tough.] “This job proved to her that she should go to school. Not everybody can do what you do. Be proud that you helped her, but not because she couldn’t ‘hack it’ at this job. The next time you need a doctor (or lawyer, nurse, or writer), the tables will be turned.”

My staff shut up real quick.

To each, truly, his own.

~
My first book is an inside perspective on waiting tables. It’s called Upside Down Kingdom, and it’s available on Amazon.

Rule-Breaking with Larry

bookAt one point, I remember creating a cast of characters for my book, Upside Down Kingdom, and realizing that I had 57 different characters. In Writer School, they teach you not to give a character a name unless that person is important to the plot. They teach that readers latch onto characters with names, and it gets confusing to have too many.

Well, I blew that rule out of the water. I gave them all names, right down to Larry, the man who washed the dishes at the restaurant.

Some of you will remember my blog Hostile Territory, and my character Bill who breaks the rules and trespasses in the woods without knowing it. Unlike Bill, I knew what I was getting into. While I agree that you don’t need to go name-dropping all over the place (it’s a lot to track and it gets distracting), I also knew these were memorable characters, characters of distinction by their own right. Certainly there was not a wallflower among them. I felt strongly that they deserved names and I believed my readers could not only handle that but would agree with me on this.

The story is relayed in first person by our main character Amy, who happens to be a waitress. Waiting tables, people, characters, customers, tend to come and go quickly. One minute, the guests you’re waiting on are the most important in the room, and the next, they settle up and leave and are gone from your restaurant world, sometimes never to be seen again.

And, plain and simple: When you wait tables, you serve others. From Amy’s point of view, there are no lowly jobs. Each person is important, and especially Larry, the one keeping you in clean dishes.

In UDK, 57 characters deserved names. I broke a rule, and they got them.

~
Find UDK on Amazon.