a simple trip on the bus. it should have taken no time at all. instead i was en route for 2 hours or so of the late afternoon on saturday. i ran into the 35th anniversary celebration of the berlin fernsehturm, the end of that day’s hartz iv demonstration, the accompanying riot police, and the celebration for german reunification, der tag der deutsche einheit. for all of these reasons, the bus i wanted to take was not running. the fernsehturm i passed by quickly. later in the evening, i could see the top half of a fireworks display from my window next to the blinking television tower’s antenna. at the demo, the riot police took up most of the sidewalk but i still managed. and the national reunification celebration? i’m not sure what that was really about but i couldn’t avoid it. it was a cross between a street fair and a carnival. lots of sausage, pretzels, and assorted food/game booths. the requisite stand for a bad radio station and a bad dj. a shawl-wearing portly woman barking out a song with an accordeon player trying to help out. there was nothing more celebratory about it than any local neighborhood street fair in new york with gyros, lemonade, italian sausage, and funnel cakes. maybe i missed the main events. definitely not as well attended as the demo. possibly the actual events scheduled for the 3 day celebrations such as "Schlager-Cocktail" or "Jazzin Hot Fellows" had something to do with the low attendance. in the end, after two rerouted bus trips and one U-Bahn later, i made it safely back home. 1st mission accomplished.
the next mission was trying to find out what happened to my absentee ballot. in the blog world, i see some people have gotten theirs and other people haven’t. some of the media have picked up stories about voting from abroad: how it’s so difficult, how the pentagon blocks foreign IP addresses, etc. i’ve been absentee balloting since college. no big deal. until the last election in which i tried to vote. i did receive a ballot in a timely fashion. unfortunately, it was addressed to me but contained someone else’s ballot inside. i’m sure crossing mr. levine of stuyvesant town’s name out and writing in my own somehow invalidated my vote. there wasn’t much choice at that moment. i could only hope that just two were interchanged but that would probably be unlikely.
i wasn’t daunted. this time i was still going to be prepared. when i first moved to berlin in april, i went to the embassy and registered my address like a good little citizen. the man who helped me was the same person who issued me an emergency passport 2 years ago. my purse was stolen the day before my wedding. he made my day and my pseudo honeymoon since i kinda needed my passport to leave germany. so the nice embassy man, 2 years later, offered to mail my absentee ballot form for me. how nice of him. this time when i got the "confirmation" card back in the mail there was nothing on it. no stamp, no signature, no nothing. someone in the new york board of elections office just took my self-addressed card and threw it back in the mail.
a blank card? what could this mean? i became determined to find out the answer. first i found the national number for voter related things in an IHT article. i called 703.588.1584. i spoke to a lovely woman who tried to convince me that manhattan in new york city was indeed located in orleans county, not new york county. she seriously confused me, then reassured me, and then transferred me without notice. i found myself speaking to a lovely lady in orleans county, somewhere, usa. she was also confused but admitted that they seemed to get a lot of wrong transfers by phone. thankfully, she was willing to look up the number for the new york county board of elections so i didn’t have to call the woman with geography issues at the national number again. so i called the nyc number. the number was no longer active. so i called the new number. unlike orleans country (nice, friendly lady), i ended up stuck in the voting touch tone menu system for the next 5 minutes. i landed on the correct absentee voting mailbox which was of course full. i’ve called and called again. today, something, somewhere went wrong with the system and i stumbled across a real, breathing, live person. i asked to check on the status of an absentee ballot. not to worry, things were put right in the world and i was transferred back into touch tone hell.
if anyone happens to find my ballot somewhere between berlin and orleans country, please feel free to send it along my way. i just may want to exercise these rights my folk fought so hard for back in the day, which really wasn’t that long ago. the more things change… 2nd mission status unavailable.