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Never, Ever, Not Even if You’re Desperate

September 29, 2011

In March Archie was unemployed.  As he was about to head overseas I thought he should leave with funds in his

You Wacky Wabbit

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

Trimming Licorice in 32 Degree Heat

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.

My 17 year old Arabella and her Wacky Wabbit

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.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2011 11:49 am

    Happy snaps are the best. 🙂

    What an ordeal, I never imaged those poor people had to count the votes too! It really does sound like an ordeal.

    …do you still speak to that friend??

  2. September 29, 2011 11:54 am

    I did this job one year. You certaily earn your money don’t you. I love the rabbit and i can only imagine the dinner guests….. and there towering heals ( like one of my neices).So glad you found my blog Charlie. I look forward to reading more of yout]r stories. Theyr’e great

  3. September 29, 2011 12:08 pm

    Maybe it was worth it if you could ‘count’ the votes in your partys favour? I don’t think $300 is worth it either. When I worked at a big sports arena, the guys who stood in the lift and pressed the up/down buttons got $1 more an hour than me as a qualified chef- so disheartening!
    What a cute photo, I don’t know who’s grin is the biggest- Buggs or Arabella’s 🙂

  4. September 29, 2011 3:55 pm

    I have such fond memories of that cookbook (though my mum censored it- a few pages with the trickier recipes were stuck together so we never saw them). I think that bunny was one of the censored ones 😉

  5. September 29, 2011 9:39 pm

    oh god – yes I always look at the election poll people with a touch of sympathy when I see how tiny that print is in the roll books!!! I would be cross eyed within minutes.

    ps – I am super impressed by that cake!!!!

  6. September 29, 2011 10:59 pm

    Oh god, I remember doing stocktakes for similar paltry amounts in the dead of winter …. horrid work for next to nothing. Never again. But I do love the cake, and your beautiful daughter’s smile!

  7. September 30, 2011 3:56 am

    I had no idea that the roll checkers also had to do the counting – what a ridiculously long day! Maybe next time you should pick a smaller electorate?
    Splendid cake – it’s lovely when they are still between being a kid and being a grown up.

  8. September 30, 2011 9:13 am

    Looks like the Electoral Commission got value for money………………..

  9. September 30, 2011 11:19 am

    Oh dear heavens, you poor thing! No wonder so many of us are disenchanted with the political system these days 😉

    P.S. A friend of mine did the Census thing this year, and in his words: “Never again”.

    Seems there’s a lot of that going around!

  10. October 1, 2011 12:58 am

    You know I had never really considered working at an election polling booth and this just about killed what tiny aspirations I had for doing it!

  11. October 1, 2011 7:52 am

    I always hated voting time, it meant having to line up for ages in a dingy room and my vote never counted anyway. I couldn’t imagine ever working there! What an ordeal for you.
    Love the cake though and Arabella’s really pretty 😀

  12. October 1, 2011 11:16 am

    What a gorgeous cake! Happy birthday to Arabella. My mother has done role rview, Census and the polling booths numerous times, and it is pretty much as you experienced it – more civic duty than money making.

  13. October 1, 2011 1:02 pm

    Sounds like the job from hell! Funny that some people actually look for those opportunities.
    Your rabbit looks exactly like the one in the book. Very cute!

  14. October 2, 2011 12:16 am

    OMG, what a grueling job. I guess you can at least take comfort in the fact that you did your civic duty to the nth degree. But still…..You’re to be commended for doing it, though. Not an easy day, but you handled it with grace.

  15. October 4, 2011 11:16 am

    I would have walked out!

  16. October 6, 2011 5:33 am

    What a long day of reading tiny print then endless counting, oh wow fun, not.

    You did a brilliant job on the cake, that is something worth smiling about.

  17. October 16, 2011 6:32 am

    Oh wow I don’t know how they get anyone to do it if that’s what it’s like! Well done though I think you’ve done your civic duty for a while.

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