Saturday, November 24, 2007

Election day nerves

I'd prefer 'Bob Brown for PM', but I'm operating in the realms of reality.

I planned to spend today getting stuck right into some work I’ve been procrastinating about. Work that involves a lot of thinking. Work that is due in one week.

But, of course, I can’t think.

Not about work, anyway. I didn’t realise just how nervous and excited I was about this election until this morning.


Drag myself out of bed, after several not-so-subtle proddings from The Husband over the past hour. While he is stirring his breakfast rice porridge, I decorate our white picket fence with a row of ‘Still Not Happy John’ stickers from my desk drawer. I am rather fetchingly clad in my pyjama top and last night’s straggly ponytail.


Get dressed in my traditional election-day outfit: a Mambo tee shirt I bought in 2001 that says ‘Mambo Super Chump’ on the front, with a caricature of John Howard’s head atop a lollipop stick on the back.

Read The Age online. Worry about the late surge to the Coalition. Dismiss it. Worry about it again.


The Husband and I walk the matter of metres to the nearest polling booth. We pass Nicola Roxon on the way. The Husband points at her as she heads away, presumably on her way to the next stop.
‘Look, it’s Nicola Roxon’ he says.
She must hear him, because she waves at us and calls out a hello.
‘Good luck today!’ I shout, full of confidence - and pride that my local member has bested Tony Abbott recently.
‘Thanks!’ she calls back, and disappears.

It strikes me, as I bask in the warmth of our little exchange, that a friendly encounter with your local MP really could sway a swinging voter, wrong though that seems. On Insight yesterday I watched a fifty-something man talk about how he’d decided to vote for Kevin Rudd after seeing him on Rove and deciding he seemed a ‘good bloke’. A man beside him nodded agreement. Bizarre, but good, I guess. For ‘our team’, if not for what it says about Australian voters.

The Husband and I follow our election ritual of heading straight for the Greens representative and taking a how-to-vote card, pointedly and rather snootily refusing the Liberals’ volunteer.

There is already a long line, snaking across the asphalt and towards the playground, past the card tables piled with boxes of old books for sale and a wicker basket full of food, wrapped in cellophane: a raffle prize.


I cast my vote. And yes, I fill out the Senate card ‘below the line’, all bloody 68 preferences. I have no idea who some of these people are, especially the independents.

An elderly lady leans on a cane beside me in the neighbouring booth as I painstakingly fill out my Senate sheet. She peers closely at me, reading what I am doing. I am inexplicably annoyed, as if she is copying my answers on a test.


Woo-hoo! I’ve done it.

We browse the books and I buy six, including two Goosebumps books for F, who has just gotten into them.

On the way out the gate, we follow our other election day ritual, solemnly handing back our How to Vote cards for recycling.


We collect the dogs from home and walk to the monthly Farmer’s Market held nearby in the Yarraville Gardens.

I buy a Fair Trade coffee and a slice of orange and poppyseed cake and eat them on the lawns, while The Husband daringly flaunts the council by-laws and lets the dogs off the lead on the adjacent oval. He walks in circles on the yellowing grass, against the backdrop of rust-red towers of shipping containers and the hum of traffic on Whitehall Road.

The Husband and the dogs join me on the grass and the dogs alternately try to eat my cake and chase a nearby dog, letting off machine gun bursts of staccato barks.

The market throngs with clusters of wandering people, many of them trailing dogs. One woman draws stares with a little white dog perched atop an old-fashioned vinyl shopping trolley.


I stop on the way home to buy the papers. I get The Age, The Australian, The Herald Sun and The Financial Review.

‘You’ve got a lot of reading to do there’ laughs the girl behind the counter at the newsagent.

‘You got all four papers?’ asks The Husband.
‘We need to know how the other side is thinking.’

The main road is much busier than usual. Everyone seems to be lingering outside after they cast their votes.


We run into friends from Seddon outside our house, on their way back from the polling booth. They look at our fence and laugh.

‘What do you think about that?’ my friend, who has known us for about six years, asks The Husband. ‘Are you thinking, why do we always have to make a statement?’
‘No,’ says The Husband, surprised.

The Husband loves making a statement. He particularly enjoys wearing his ‘Free Palestine’ tee shirt to work, in an area where most of his customers are firmly on the side of Israel.

‘It’s very interesting,’ says my friend.

‘I should have got some posters for the Greens and Labor and put them up, too.’
‘Or Dave O’Neill!’ she says. ‘He seems like a nice guy. I just noticed he’s a candidate.’
No offence, I’m sure Dave is lovely, but I’m not going to support him just because he’s a famous nice bloke. I have no idea why he’s standing, or what he stands for.

Their baby stirs in his pram and they say their goodbyes.


We go out for lunch, with an armful of newspapers. The cafes are packed.

At Hausfrau, the table next to us is packed with B-list (maybe C-list?) celebrities, most of them recognisable from from Thank God You’re Here. The one we don't recognise is very loud, as if he wouldn't mind people looking over and realising who he is sitting with. Afterwards, the Husband tells me that Brooke Satchwell accidentally touched his arm.
‘Were you excited?’
I think he might be serious.

‘Nobody touched your arm’ he says.
‘Um, no. How terrible.’
I tell him this would only disappoint me if Hamish Blake was at the table and didn’t touch my arm.

I am still thinking about Hamish Blake touching my arm when The Mother cycles down the footpath towards us, trailing Kujo on a lead. Kujo is so enormous that his head is pretty much in line with her seat.
I look away, across the road. The Husband looks right at her.
‘Hi guys’ she calls out as she passes us.
‘Hi there’ says The Husband.
I say nothing.

‘Wow’ he says.
‘Yeah. I was officially REALLY rude.’
‘I was pretty rude too! Did you hear the way I said hi? It was like I really didn’t care.’
“Oh yes, I heard that.’


We both read the latest political news online.

I do about five minutes worth of actual work.

Then I write a really kind of pointless blog about my day.


genevieve said...

Oh, aye. But at least you managed to stay asleep till 9.30! brownie points for that.
And gold stars for the t-shirt and the stickers on the fence. Bewdiful.
I was awake at 8.20, then had to hang around the house till 9.30 so that youngest son could be accompanied on his virgin trip to the polls. It's a big gauntlet to run on your own, all those How To Vote guys.
His verdict? 'That was horrible.'
(It is a pretty big polling booth.)
And the cakes this year were $8!! and I was about to go to the gym, so had to skip the sausage.
Now massive cleaning and reading all day - and fear and loathing. Maxine has just been on the teev and I feel nauseous at the thought that we may not have a result for Bennelong till TOMORROW. ARRRGH.

genevieve said...

PS I voted below the line too. Always fun, deciding whether you hate One Nation more than the Shooters' Party, innit.

redcap said...

I went to vote with my mum this morning and would you believe she ditched me at the polling booth because it was taking me so long to fill out all 46 boxes that she thought I'd left? I hung around outside the school and finally realised she'd given me the arse. While I was walking back to her place (she only lives a block from the polling booth), my phone rang. "Where on earth are you? I thought you'd been stolen by gypsies!" Checking all those boxes and trying to decide whether Family First is more evil than the Liberals or whether the 4WD party is more fatuous than the Fishing Party takes time. Ooh, the coverage is about to start! Eeek!

Ariel said...

Yeah, I wished I'd properly read the GetUp info on voting below the line so I might have actually known what I was doing, after a while. I had the same dilemma - Shooter's Party or Libs? Family First or Libs? One Nation made it safely to the bottom spot.

Genevieve, what a pivotal moment ... his first election. And a bloody decent one, too. My first election was terrible. 1996.

Red, we had 68 spots in Victoria. Your mum would have HATED that.