BLOGS/RURALITY

By Eric Poor

RURALITY

Disenfranchisement — that’s about as big a word as this writer ever employs. It’s a word some journalists are throwing out there these days following the second year in a row the region has experienced a blizzard on town election day, the second Tuesday of March. There are some who feel that Momma Nature has been disenfranchising elderly, handicapped and just plain lazy would-be voters.

The state’s position is that the elections cannot be moved to a different day due to weather conditions. It’s okay to shuffle around the Town Meeting business, but not the election ballot voting, according to our Secretary of State.

I almost didn’t vote for the first time in a very long time. My Chevy Colorado four-wheel drive pickup has become cantankerous. On a random basis it decides not to start. Apparently this is a condition peculiar to Chevys and it involves an anti-theft “pass-lock” feature.  It usually fires right up after a ten minute wait. It’s an annoying idiosyncrasy I’ve been living with for a few years now.

My regular mechanic couldn’t figure it out. Chevrolet hasn’t offered any information or a recall to fix this, although now that I’ve finally learned what the problem is I’m sure a dealership would be happy to see me and my checkbook and fix the defect.

It took me a while to figure out that the problem would resolve itself with a simple ten minute wait. So I keep a book in the cab and make sure I take my reading glasses with me on my forays around town. I keep the truck running when I take my goodies to the dump – excuse me, the trash transfer and recycling center. And I’ve held up the line at the gas pumps on a couple occasions. But so far I haven’t been late for anything important.

I like to do my grocery shopping first thing on Sunday morning when there aren’t any crowds in the stores. The Sunday before the election my truck, with a cab full of groceries, did it again. I read an essay from the book “News To Me” and after the ten minutes had passed I tried to start the truck – no luck. Uh oh …

I read another essay and after another ten minute wait the truck started. Whew!

The sheer randomness of this problem was something of a head scratcher. I can go four months without an episode and then have it happen four times in the course of a week. The problem with taking it to a repair shop is that it will be functioning just fine, having, of course, started in order to get there. How do you fix a problem when there is no problem? I’ve been waiting for it to become a really easily recognizable problem where it just plain won’t start at all and needs a tow. Maybe I’m on the verge of that.

After this last episode I went on the internet to research the problem and was happy to discover I’m not alone. People experiencing the same problem with their Chevy trucks offered a bunch of possible causes and cures. The one I think I’ll try is this: with the key in the ignition hold the door open for four seconds, then close the door, turn the key to the on position for another five seconds and when the dash lights blink out turn the key to start.

If that doesn’t work I can always just sacrifice a chicken and dance a circle around the truck three times backwards chanting “start now.”

Murphy’s Law being what it is I figured if the truck was going to really let me down for good it would be during a blizzard. So I was prepared to be disenfranchised by Chevrolet and just not go. But I was saved by my wife, who was released from work early due to the weather. So we were able to do our civic duty after all, courtesy of her all-wheel drive Subaru. We skipped the frugal Yankee routine of combining a trip to the dump – excuse me, trash transfer and recycling center – and the library and the store and whatever other errands that needed doing as part of the process.

Thankfully I remembered to bring my driver’s license even though I wasn’t driving. You need to show a picture ID to vote these days. Every time I do this I recall the time I first registered to vote back in the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. It was in Massachusetts of all places and an election official held up a placard with a printed phrase and asked me to read it aloud. Back then there was an effort by some to disenfranchise alleged illiterate voters. No one asked me if I could read between the lines.

So why the effort? Why not just stay home instead? What does my one vote even mean in the scheme of things?

I found the answer to those questions the next day when reading the election results. The new fire engine passed by a mere seven votes and the $5,000 article to fund the town’s 250th anniversary failed to get a majority vote in a 715–715 vote tie.

Somebody’s one vote could have made a difference there.