“Have you voted yet?” my friend Pat asked. She fixed her laser-hot eyes on me and watched while I squirmed.
“No,” I said. “I haven’t. I — ”
“You have no excuse,” Pat said. “You need to go out and vote tomorrow.”
“But I — ”
“You might get hit by a bus,” Pat said. “And then what? You’d be dead and you wouldn’t have voted.”
“Or you might get some terrible disease,” Karen said. She was looking fierce and self-righteous, too, just like Pat. Both of them had already early-voted, of course. “You might just fall over, dead, before the election.”
I tried to explain my total lack of good-citizenship and my moral lassitude. I love to vote on election day! I love to stand in line and inhale the craziness and high spirits! I like to be right in the thick of everything, in the center of this country’s miraculous, creaky machinery of democracy! I just feel patriotic and righteous when I —
“You want to do something on election day?” Pat snapped. “You early vote. Then you spend the day driving elderly people to the polls.”
“That’s right,” Karen said. “You could do something useful.”
Man, you think you run with a tough crowd. You tell me about your friends with the knives in their shoes, the guns in their car pockets, their black belts in karate and any other martial art, their lethal-weapon feet, their treacherous mob ties. That’s nothing. On Tuesdays, I run with a crowd of trial lawyers who are about to form a lynch mob and string me up because I haven’t early voted.
You know how tough they are? Karen once tore into one of her male law partners for being a sexist pig, then sat, pitilessly, and watched him sob for several minutes. Another time, she accosted legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal — a man who reduces other men to quivering puddles — and insulted him about his golf game. “I’ve heard your swing is pretty good,” she said. “But you can’t putt worth shit.” She then proceeded to show him how to putt better in the middle of an Austin club. Nearby, grown men were said to be weeping with fear, although — who knows? — they were probably drunk, too.
And Pat? She’s terrified half the town when they see their soon-to-be-ex spouses have retained her in a divorce case. They know they’re headed to a place Pat calls The Cleaners.
I didn’t have a chance. I sat there and wondered why I didn’t hang around with my own kind — timid, soulful, hypersensitive writers and poets. People who are passive-aggressive, instead of aggressive-aggressive. People who, like me, never practiced law because they don’t like conflict.
“You have no excuse,” Pat said. “If you get hit by a mack truck and go into a coma before election day, you won’t be able to vote. Then think how bad you’ll feel.”
After being browbeaten and pummeled for half an hour, I already felt kind of bad. But, what the hell. I’m still waiting to vote till election day, still standing my own passive-aggressive turf. Even though I know Pat’s right: If I get hit by a mack truck in the next few days, I’m going to feel really bad about it.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)