So, let me get this straight. We have a worldwide pandemic, raging wildfires in the West, hurricanes and flooding along the Gulf Coast, civil unrest and an economic depression. And, on top of that, we have an election.
Do you ever get the feeling this year is one of those tests to see just how much punishment you can absorb? Because if it is and I had the option to tap out, I would have taken it a long time ago.
We are officially in the home stretch of election season, that period of time when most of us think to ourselves, "Should I stand here in the parking lot and repeatedly slam my own hand in my car door or go in there and vote? Think, think, think ... OK, I'll go vote."
Now, typically this apprehension is the direct result of both our choices and the likely outcome. But this year, being 2020 and all, we get the bonus pack. We get to dread the result AND the process.
This year we've been assured we're going to have to prepare for around-the-block lines, the possibility of coming in contact with folks with a highly contagious disease and the general collective angst and drama that this election has brought, and we may still not be exactly crazy about our options.
The thing is, in America, we vote early and often (though not in the same election) but we don't vote particularly well. For years we decried the overall lack of participation in the electoral process. Now that interest has been, shall we say, piqued, we decry how long it takes.
Now it's neither accurate nor fair to say that it's harder to vote in our elections that it is anywhere else in the world. There are people who brave actual danger and not just boredom or inconvenience to express their political will.
It's just that, us being us – you know, the people who invented cars, airplanes, computers, moon travel and Hot Pockets – you'd think we'd have come up with a better way.
Not everyone views the physical act of voting with the dread we do. For example, in Australia, voting days are national holidays featuring barbecues, music and people in swimsuits dropping by to cast their ballots on the way to the beach.
A note: My general impression of Australia is that the phrase "on the way to the beach" is how they end most of their sentences.
In this country, on the other hand, we leave work and hurry to our respective polling places, discover we either didn't know where our polling place was or that it has moved and we didn't find out in advance, rush to our new polling place only to discover everyone else had the same idea, stand in line for what seems like forever and then try to decipher what Amendment 27 or 62 or whatever is because we didn't really read all the way down that model ballot and only stopped at the big stuff.
As a typical, red-blooded American (are there other blood color options I've been missing all these years, by the way?), I've taken the same approach to voting I take to most things. I look for a shortcut and try to cut the line.
For the last few years the Lovely Mrs. Smith and I have made a tradition of meeting at the courthouse on the first day of early voting, performing our civic duty and getting lunch. Because even bad choices are made better with French fries.
This year, we went the absentee ballot route, despite being assured in some quarters that we might as well have taken our ballots, put them in his and her bottles and thrown them in the Arkansas River, hoping they'd show up in the Secretary of State's office in Little Rock, and that they'll be counted by future generations as part of an archeological dig.
Since we took them down to the courthouse and dropped them off with a very nice, official-looking lady (OK, everyone in a mask looks sort of official, but still ... ), we're pretty confident we're OK.
So, as the first Tuesday of November bears down on us. all that's left for the Lovely Mrs. Smith and me is the (post-election) shouting. Of which I'm sure there will be plenty.
And like most of 2020, all I can say is, I got it done, I'm glad it's over and it wasn't as bad as it could have been. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Gary Smith is a recovering journalist living in Rogers.