Never, Ever, Not Even if You’re Desperate
In March Archie was unemployed. As he was about to head overseas I thought he should leave with funds in his
bank account. I vaguely remembered a friend telling me (years ago) what a wonderful time she had working at a Polling Booth for the State Election. She said it was, ‘heaps of fun’. As a State Election was on the approach I went on-line and discovered, sure enough, there were job vacancies – and they weren’t being picky – Archie and I could both work at a Polling Booth. I signed us both up for what I imagined was going to be pleasant and rewarding, but above all, financially gratifying.
At 8am the floodgates opened and the room quickly filled. I don’t know if you’ve seen a copy of the electoral roll but the print is so tiny I should have been told to bring a magnifying glass. The fact that only two of the overhead lights were operational wasn’t helpful.
I had thought I would be pretty good at spelling people’s surnames but I hadn’t counted on there being such a huge migrant population in that part of Sydney. I haven’t yet mastered Mandarin or touched on Cantonese so the Xhing’s and the Zhous had me completely muddled. If it wasn’t the Xhing’s or the Zhous it was the Mc’s and the Mac’s. Where do you find these under ‘M’? What is the rule?
By the time I was offered a five-minute break I knew I was being underpaid. Why did my friend lie to me? There was nothing fun
about this. If I wasn’t marking off names in virtual darkness I was told to stand at the doors with a long wooden stick in my hands and use it to push the votes down in the boxes. (I actually did enjoy wielding that big stick and found plenty more uses for it).
I was so relieved when 6pm arrived and the opportunity to shove the outgoing Labor Party into further oblivion closed. I put my bag over my shoulder and headed for the door.
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ asked the supervisor.
‘Well that’s it, isn’t it?’ I said all confused.
‘That’s just half of it’, he chuckled, ‘now we have to count all the votes’.
And I looked behind me and all those boxes with the votes jammed into them by my big stick were being upturned onto the collapsible tables. The room was a sea of paper. I’d been duped. I’d read the fine print in the position advertised; there was nothing about this. ‘What time do you think we’ll be finished?’ I asked.
And he just couldn’t get the grin off his face, ‘When the last vote’s been counted’.
I won’t bore you with the details but all those bits of paper had to be unravelled from their screwed up positions and then laid out on tables and then divided into political groups and then counted and then counted and then counted again. And there wasn’t even a dinner break.
I walked out at 11pm. I’d missed the last bus and had to hail a cab costing about 20% of my day’s earnings. I thought the tiny stipend I was being paid was from 6.45am until 6pm but as it turns out, I worked for 16 hours in virtual darkness with my legs parted on either side of rusty metal chair legs, with bad breath exuding from my right and lazy girls to my left and the only relief was the opportunity to push votes to the bottom of boxes with a long wooden stick to be followed up with hours of unwrapping scrunched up voting papers. All that for nothing more than $300.
And as I was leaving, that veteran of this kind of activity with the bad breath said to me, ‘You know there’s a Census coming up, you can put your name down to hand out Census Forms. That’s my next opportunity.’
I believe; one man’s opportunity is another man’s misery.
Like I said, ‘Never, ever, not even if you’re desperate.’
Arabella turned 17 last week. She celebrated by inviting 25 pretty young things to a sit-down dinner in our backyard. They all arrived in dresses the length of T-shirts, heels so high they had to stoop to get through doorways and backpacks containing nothing more sinister than cranberry juice? Proving she’s still young at heart, Arabella chose this cake from The Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Kids’ Brithday Cakes’ cookbook. A cookbook I’m all too familiar with. When making this recipe, it says to make three quantities of Fluffy Frosting but I had so much left over you probably only need to make double quantity. Sorry the photos are so ordinary, they are just happy snaps but Arabella was so happy with the result, she wanted me to share the images.