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Election Day: Theater of the Absurd? No, Just Voting in South Beach

Standing in a civilized, orderly voting line isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The downside: There’s no talk-show-style drama to keep you entertained while you wait. Fortunately for Riptide 2.0 -- and the nearly 100 voters at the Miami Beach fire station on Jefferson Avenue around noon -- one poll deputy put a halt to all of that calm efficiency.

At first, something was off. People chatted pleasantly in line, even followed the rules. There was no shouting or arguing, no subtle cultural or political tension. For a second, we wondered: Is this really Miami-Dade?

And so people in line began getting bored. We wished we had brought something to do while we waited, like the ponytailed professor who remembered his crossword puzzle. Or that lucky little kid glued to his Gameboy. Then the God of sociological experiments sent us a little golden nugget of entertainment.

To the left of a bright red fire truck, a wild-eyed, toothless woman sat chewing on a chicken bone, babbling something to herself. Next to her was an empty brown beer bottle. We made note that she was frazzled -- and maybe a little drunk -- but figured she had come stumbling over from Flamingo Park to check out the action.

Then she started hollering, “H through O! H through O!” Chunks of chicken flew from her mouth. “Ya’ll know your last names, don’t you? Get in line! H through O!”

She had an unnecessarily loud, harsh tone of voice, so voters turned to see what all the commotion was about. Was this a schizophrenic woman who thought she was a poll worker? Were these delusions of grandeur?

No, upon closer inspection, we found she was actually -- somehow -- donning an orange vest that read, "Poll Deputy." But how was this possible? we wondered. Voters stood awkwardly in line, not sure how to react.

The scream-babbling got louder -- something about “lunchtime!” and the government being out to get us. Then, loudest of all, to nobody in particular: “Ya’ll gonna vote for the right person?”

“The right person?” a twentysomething in a gray dress whispered to her friend. “She's not supposed to say that."

“What’s wrong with her?” he whispered back.

In line, college kids shot each other looks that said, “Who’s gonna tell her to shut up?” Others laughed as if they had they just stumbled upon a low-budget Theater of the Absurd production. Finally the girl in the gray dress had enough.

Trying to stay poised, she said to the woman: “Listen. This is Miami Beach. We are all chill here. You need to stop yelling, because I will complain. This is a calm, democratic process.” The woman took another bite of her chicken and looked the girl up and down. “I’m eating, mama. Get back in line.” The girl got back in line and rolled her eyes as if to say, “Crazy-ass SoBe.”

--Natalie O'Neill


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