You choose the full early-voting experience, autumn 2020 style.
You mask up and take a stand at a six-foot interval at the distant end of a line winding along three sidewalks to an unseen door into an early-voting station at a midtown library in Little Rock.
You'd eschewed all the absentee rigmarole in favor of, you said, picking a typical down time and going to one of the county's 12 early-voting stations. But here you are, late in the inevitably busy first morning, wanting to get your voting done. You don't want to drop dead without voting, and for Ali Noland then to lose by a vote for the school board.
Speaking of that, a woman across the way holds a sign for Noland's opponent, a fellow named Stuart Mackey. A driver of a white SUV cuts the corner close, rolls down the window and asks her about Mackey.
I listen as the woman extols him, then hear the driver say all right then, thanks. And I think that's no way to decide for the school board, and that the motorist had just been steered wrong, and that no one holding an Ali Noland sign was in sight.
You think about chasing the motorist but you're old and fat and you'd lose your place in line behind the half-dozen people including two women in folding chairs who have already taken spots behind you.
But in a short while Ali comes along. She's a working woman, using her lunch hour to hold up her sign and wave, not that that's any basis for being on the school board either.
Regrettably, you don't see any motorist pull over to her for a superficial if better curbside decision about the children's future.
A guy behind you asks his wife--I assume it's his wife -- to hold his spot and comes up to ask what the point is of Asa Hutchinson coming out every few days and saying, well, this many more died of the virus today.
He asks: Why didn't the guy launch a public awareness and marketing campaign, like stopping smoking or "click it or ticket?"
You don't know and you're embarrassed you hadn't thought to ask.
You make the turn to the second sidewalk and the line's conversation turns to the poor dog with obvious digestive issues that had left several deposits. You pass the time by posting about that on social media and a guy replies, "Can't let a little dog poo dissuade from clearing the 275 pounds of refuse out of an Oval Office."
Some people certainly have a way with words.
The line moves steadily, much more quickly than you'd expected. Nearly an hour later, you're at the door where a sign tells voters that one of the candidates, whose name is posted there, has his name misspelled on the ballot in the at-large city director's race. And you think the guy just got some last-second, on-site help with name-identification. You're for one of his opponents, Antwan Phillips. Let me check that spelling. Yes, Antwan Phillips. Again, that's Antwan Phillips.
Then you make it into the voting room where you grab a stylus as instructed, present your ID, repeat your identifying particulars to the nice lady and use the stylus to sign the box on the iPad screen.
But your hand slips and your signature is different from your normal signature. You'd best hope the Republicans don't find that out or they'll have your vote made provisional--the provision being to count it only if French Hill already has won.
So, you get your ballot, which is blank but will scan your appropriate list of choices when entered in the machine. But first the nice man needs to tell you something. The top race on the ballot will have so many candidates that the list will extend to more than one page, and, if "your guy," as he put it, is not on the first page, don't hit "next," but "more."
It turns out there are a bunch of clowns running for president, in addition to the main one.
You nod because you understand all that, being a sophisticated voter and a computer operator of considerable renown. And then, all of a sudden, you see Trump's name but not Joe Biden's and you think "what the hell." But then you remember what the guy told you maybe 45 seconds before. Hit "more," not "next." Hit "next" only after you've punched your choice with the stylus, in which case Joyce Elliott and French Hill pop up.
The rest of the process is straightforward.
You vote for the school millage extension because the financial market is right and the schools are going to need that money even if the state irks you with its arrogantly unyielding control.
You vote "no" on all the referred state constitutional amendments and instantly feel guilty about voting against the highway tax in Issue 1, which probably will pass without you.
Then you leave, a straight-up hour after your arrival on the distant sidewalk.
You've been voting for decades. It's routine. Old hat.
But you've never felt as proud as you feel right now, having stood in line an hour so that you could say for history that you voted against the hideous threat to decency and democracy current infecting the White House with more viruses than one.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.