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Worn and wasted by election day shambles

  • 08 July 2016


6am: The alarm rattles through my dream state, violently. I press snooze, times three.

6.27: I crawl out of bed, pour steaming water over coffee beans and step into the hot shower.

6.45: Half dressed (in just two of the final four layers of my outfit, thank you Melbourne winter), I shove pre-prepared boxes of ambitiously healthy food into a canvas bag: chia pudding, a stingy health-food version of 'massaman', perverted by its lack of potatoes and its black rice instead of white.

6.51: I arrive at the polling place and begin 'looking busy', i.e. poke at boxes. Someone hands me a purple bib, sighing.

7.15: Unsure whether I am 'allowed' to do this or that, as in, help myself to a cup of instant coffee, I make one anyway and feel the wrath of my superego reign on me.

In ten hours' time, my well-trained worker body and its naïve devotion to authority will be replaced by a will to survive. I will snatch handfuls of other people's junk food in the kitchenette during my break, my watchful eyes not straying from the door.

7.30: The OIC makes a dramatic speech about the integrity of live ballot papers, that there will be no repeat of the Western Australian kerfuffle, that we have our booklets that contain all the answers (and many typos, too). He seems nice. Maybe a little skittish. Not someone I'd imagine would be hired to run an office or manage a kitchen or even wait tables, but he must know what he's doing.

This speech is the last demonstration of authority I witness on this day.


"A glamorous woman in a pink sports coat sardonically asks if she's allowed to stop voting now that she's 70. You can stop voting, I say, when you are dead."


7.50: Counting ballot papers before the voters enter, I discover I am not a gifted counter. I suspect I might be mildly dyslexic which seems like a bad deal for a writer slash editor, but here we are, stacks of 50 coming up as 49 then 51. I decide that accuracy is more important than speed, slow it down. Fifty. A hundred. Two hundred.

8am: The morning smokers are at the front of the early-bird queue and their whiff and their jitters, their sense that they have to be somewhere else urgently, makes me forget my words. Within 15 minutes, though, I am a master, the master, of voting instructions.