Q is for queue

The difficulties at my polling place were replicated all over the city.

voters-brave-long-linesThe word queue has several meanings. The first I learned is “a braid of hair worn hanging down behind,” which I swear I learned in an episode of the TV western Bonanza, when someone cut off the queue of a Chinese man, bringing the victim dishonor. When I was growing up, my great aunt Deana and I used the word frequently when we played the board game SCRABBLE.

But the meaning I think of usually is “a file or line, especially of people waiting their turn.” Specifically, I think that line that feeds to several cashiers at the drug store, or clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or tellers at a banker. Though it doesn’t seem to be in the definition, I’ve always distinguished it from “line”, such as what one finds at the grocery store, where I’m always in the longest one.

Generally, I prefer the queue to the line. But when the queue breaks down, I remember.

One time was in 1999 when my new bride and I were flying back from our honeymoon in Barbados (thanks, JEOPARDY!), we stopped at New York City’s JFK airport to go through customs. The queue somehow got turned into a figure eight, and we spent an inordinately long time stuck on the bottom part of the number, even as others passed us.

Another time was in 2011, at Niagara Falls when the elevators broke down while we were at the base of a boating area. Some staff tried to create a queue, but it failed miserably.

Since I’m kvetching, the worst voting line I ever experienced was on February 9 of this year. It was a revote of a proposition to renovate Albany High School, which was rejected by a few hundred votes in November. The $179.9 million request in February trimmed over $10 million from the original budget.

I got to the school, where there were three lines, one, I was told by someone in line, to check in, and two to get the ballots. This didn’t make any sense and was incorrect.

In fact, as one of the guys involved with the school district eventually explained, one line was A-G, another H-R, and a third, S-Z. Or something like that, since he said two different lines contained H. In any case, I was in the WRONG line, and had to switch to the end of another.

Halfway through this second line, they run out of ballots. So one of the workers, who worked in the school as a secretary in that school, made copies of a blank ballot. Unfortunately, the copied ballots wouldn’t run through the scanning machine, so the workers had to reconfigure the machine to take the paper ballots to be counted later.

As I was leaving, people became even testier in the queue. The guy who had made an announcement 20 minutes early got all indignant, yelling at the crowd, “I TOLD you what line to be in!” Except that about half of them would not have HEARD the announcement, since they arrived afterward. He managed to take a bad situation and make it worse.

I spent 40 minutes in the process, which should have taken less than a quarter of that. The problem of the lines would have been EASILY remedied if someone had made SIGNS indicating which queue to be in.

The difficulties at my polling place were replicated all over the city, leading to petitions to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to throw out the results, when the referendum passed by 189 votes. However, she upheld the February vote to rebuild and renovate Albany High School, denying claims that the vote should be invalidated.

“I cannot conclude that petitioners have established that the fundamental fairness of the … bond vote was compromised and I find no basis upon which to overturn the results of the vote,” the commissioner wrote.

Now, this wasn’t nearly as bad as the fiasco that was the 2016 Arizona primary election, which involved people standing in line FIVE HOURS to exercise their franchise.

ABC Wednesday – Round 18

Flashback to footwear

While we were in Portland, Maine, we stopped at Freeport at the L.L. Bean store.

I’ve been occasionally complaining about the quality of the customer service of certain businesses. So I thought I’d share a more positive story.

But first a bit of personal history. I was on the game show JEOPARDY! on November 9 and 10, 1998, which was recorded on September 16 of that year. I’ve quickly noted that I won $17,600 in the first game. I was less effusive about my second game. I was in a distant third place going into the last question. I had $2,200, Jim had $5,500, and Robin, $9,200.

The Final JEOPARDY! category was FAMOUS NEW ENGLANDERS: The clue was just a picture of a guy dressed rather like the guy here. I wagered $1,800 and got it right (LL Bean) ending with $4,000. Jim bet $3,800 and got it wrong, and finished with $1,700. Robin bet $2,500, which was incorrect but won the game with $6,700 in cash. Both of them gave Sears as the answer. Jim won a Panasonic DVD player; and I, a trip to Almond Beach Resort, Barbados, which Carol and I used on our honeymoon in May 1999.

In March 1999, my then-fiancee, Carol, took me to Portland, Maine on vacation. While we were there, we stopped at Freeport, ME at the L.L. Bean store; they weren’t all over the place as they are now. In the entryway was the exact same photo I had seen while taping the game show about six months earlier. We got snowed in at Portland and had to stay a couple of extra days.

In March 2013, I was wearing a pair of LL Bean boots when the sole separated from the rest of the shoe. My wife took them to the local LL Bean store – which did not exist in 1999 – who sent them to the repair unit.

The repair unit, though, could not fix them. But they would give me a credit for what I paid for them, as part of some lifetime guarantee I was only vaguely aware of. When did I buy them? I had no idea. “Had to be 1998 or 1999.” Well, in that case, it HAD to be March of 1999 [though I didn’t actually remember buying them, since I had not yet received the $17,600; the check arrived on March 17, 1999]. I explained that I had to make a pilgrimage to the store because it got me a trip to a far-away island. The repair guy loved the story.

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