Before every election, NC poll workers have to be sworn in. Typically we do it at poll worker training, so I was sworn in on Thursday. Everybody stands up, we raise our right hands, then swear an oath together. I always remain silent on "so help me god." Likewise the "under god" in the pledge of allegiance. I would prefer not to say the pledge at all -- I think it's kind of ridiculous to pledge allegiance to a flag. Pledge to the country? Kind of jingoistic but I can see the point since we're officially government employees. But a flag? We pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth? I don't like it at all. But I always sit up front, and it would look bad to stand there silently for the entire pledge. So I say it, and omit the "under god."
Whatever! That's neither here nor there. The point is that to be an election official we have to take an oath. And part of the oath is that we will not reveal what happens inside the voting enclosure. I'm not sure whether that means the little booths where people are actually voting, or the entire room. To be safe I assume the latter. And I'm about to break that oath.
I always work the registration table. Where people walk up, state their name and address, I look them up in a book, if they're in there they sign a form, then take the form to the ballot table and turn it in for a ballot. This means that hundreds of people walk up to me and use my pen. On election day it's just them signing, I don't have to write anything. During early voting, because anyone can go to any voting location, there's a notation the poll worker has to make on the form. This means that I am sharing a pen with hundreds of people.
Which didn't bother me, until one day during early voting two years ago when a man walked up to my station, pulled a (clearly used) hankie out of his pocket, blew his nose loudly, picked up my pen and signed his name.
I was cool about it. I didn't recoil in horror or anything. Just sat there until he walked away, then grabbed the pen and ran to the back where I knew there was a bottle of hand sanitizer. Coated the pen and my hands with it. It got me to thinking though. That guy with the used hankie, his behavior disgusted me but in a way he was doing me a favor. Because it was obvious he was sick. How many sick people were coming in to vote, breathing on me and using my pen, and I had no idea?
I think of that moment as the beginning of the mild germ phobia I experience now. I never touch the door handle of a public bathroom with my bare hand. If someone uses my pen at work I clean it with hand sanitizer as soon as they walk away. If I'm near someone who's coughing or sounds sick, I try not to touch anything near them, and if I have to then I take care not to touch my face until I can wash my hands. I wash my hands kind of all the time. And I get flu shots now, which I never bothered with before.
It takes 2 weeks for a flu shot to be effective. I got mine early last week so I'd be protected by election day. I was super tired that night and my arm was sore for a couple of days. No other symptoms. And the guy at CVS did such a good job with the shot that I literally didn't know he had done it until it was over. I didn't feel the needle go in at all. Word to the wise, CVS on Hillsborough Rd. is the place to go for a painless flu shot!
I did get horribly sick right after the 2008 election, but I don't think it was the flu. It was a hacking cough so intense that I spent a day literally unable to talk. Georg and I communicated via online chat that day, because every time I tried to talk it would set off another coughing fit. It was kind of comical, the two of us sitting there with our laptops typing to each other. I wasn't surprised that I got sick that year: what with the campaign I'd been under such intense stress. It was no wonder I got rundown, and then got sick as soon as I allowed myself to stop. This year it's much less stress. Just the one day, plus training, plus I've been putting in some extra hours at work to "bank" against the time off. I think it's much more likely that I'll be able to avoid getting sick this time.