Monday, November 8, 2010

Election apprehension

Last Tuesday was my very first time as a voting Texan, so I was pretty excited about going to the polls. Until I actually got to my polling place and remembered the extreme anxiety I experience every time I vote.

Every election day I somehow lose my grasp on the English language completely. In LA, I used to march in with my sample ballot all filled out, meaning all I had to do was a "copy and paste," essentially. But even then I'd become seized with doubt and spend a good five minutes on every check box, making double and triple sure that I hadn't checked the opposite of the one I meant.

My voting anxiety was so bad during the 2000 presidential election that it carried over to the next day. I had been so afraid that I would accidentally vote for George W. that when an acquaintance asked me who I'd voted for, I blurted out, "George Bush!" (*GASP* *SHAME*) "NO! I mean, AL GORE!" Dude thought I was a royal nutjob, I'm sure.

So last week when it came time for my first ever Texas voting experience, I was even more thrown off than usual. First of all, in California when you vote on a proposition, your choices are "Yes" and "No." But in Texas, or at least in Austin, your options are "Agree" or "Disagree." Considering my already borderline illiteracy at the ballot, this really sent me into a doubt spiral. Did I agree? Was agreeing the same thing as yes? What's with all the trick questions!!?

Add to that the newfangled touch-screen voting system, and I was suddenly a geriatric dyslexic attempting to program a VCR. What should have taken me 5 minutes probably took more like a week. The same fear I always have when I go to the polls took over -- that I would somehow accidentally check the box or push the button that means I'm in favor of something horrific like murdering all the puppies and kittens.

Artistic representation:
But afterward, once I convinced myself that I hadn't accidentally murdered any innocent baby animals, I was filled with exhilaration. I'm a citizen! A voter! A very important person! But when you are a Democrat voting in Texas, those warm fuzzy feelings are pretty short-lived. Kind of like writing a letter to Santa Claus -- you're full of hopes and dreams while you're doing it, but the next day you realize you're probably going to have to settle for a Cosco 6-pack of tube socks and whatever flavor of Tic-Tacs were left at the grocery store on Christmas Eve. Le sigh.

In other voting news, I kept up a little bit with what was going on at the polls in my former home state of Cali, most notably Prop. 19 for the legalization of marijuana. It was defeated, but more people came out in support of it than I would have thought. This photo my sister-in-law posted from her local Taco Bell is one of the best political endorsements I've ever seen:

Does anyone else get super nervous about making a mistake at the polls?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bathroom surprise

Is there ever a scenario where the words "bathroom surprise" could mean something good? I can't really think of one.

This weekend we drove up to Denton, north of Dallas, to visit Mike's mom for her birthday. Before taking off on our four-hour drive, we stopped at Mr. Natural on the eastside for some breakfast. After a couple of breakfast tacos and a giant glass of spinach-pineapple-honey juice (I know! sounds crazy, but it's really just crazy good), it was necessary to visit the ladies' room for a pre-trip tank draining.

The bathroom -- a single-user set-up -- was unoccupied when I arrived. After a thorough inspection, I determined that there was no lock on the inside. I assumed this meant the patrons of Mr. Natural were probably aware of the restroom's vulnerable nature and knew to knock before opening the door, or else that maybe the door locked automatically somehow.
I had just finished up my business when I heard someone approach. In retrospect, this would have been a good time to clear my throat loudly or maybe sing (to the tune of Frère Jacques), "I am in here, I am in here. Yes I am! Yes I am! Don't open the door, please, I'm not finished wiping... Don't come in. Don't come in!"

But no. I was trusting the unspoken "no lock, must knock" rule. That apparently is not a real rule.

Despite being fully aware of my vulnerability, I still managed to be wildly surprised when a woman in running shorts threw open the door like she had an urgent job to do. Luckily I had already gotten my panties on, but I was in the midst of the arduous, wiggly, embarrassing process of shimmying back into my skinny jeans.

Now, when you are ambushed in the bathroom, you really have no control over what comes out of your mouth. This has happened to me once or twice, and I always blurt out something that doesn't make a whole lot of sense and certainly doesn't help the situation. This time, I said loudly, "Whoa, whoa...!" in the same tone you might use to calm a spooked horse if your only experience with spooked horses was watching re-runs of "Mr. Ed" as a kid. Running Shorts Lady paused for several seconds mumbling some "sorries" and not going anywhere, as though she were waiting for me to do something? Like waddle over to the door with my pants at mid-calf and close the door for HER? It was confusing for everyone involved, I think.

When I came out, Running Shorts Lady was nowhere to be seen (probably off trying to shake the image of my pale, ungirded thighs from her memory), and I collected my husband and shuffled out the door as quickly as possible without meeting anyone's eye.

Here is an artistic rendering of my Bathroom Surprise (complete with historically accurate puffy corduroy jacket, skinny jeans, and cowboy boots):

Have any of y'all been surprised in a public restroom? Is there an ideal way to respond in this situation?