This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to serve as a county election judge here in our tiny town out near DeKalb, Illinois. Beginning at 5:15 a.m., when we have to set up the voting booths and prepare the precinct tables and stations prior to poll opening at 6:00 a.m., it’s the start of an extremely long day, with plenty of “lulls in the action,” and it can wear one down as time seems to crawl at a snail’s pace all day, until the polls close at 7 p.m.
Our little burg is divided into three different precincts, which means that there are four election judges for each, so I did get to meet eleven other folks I’d not known before. Being relatively new to this particular area, having moved out here following my retirement in 2007, I’m still getting to know people and places and the history of the region. And because there is ample time for conversation and chit-chat through the long day, I found out a lot of answers to questions I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. For example, the trains that run through town (the tracks being a couple hundred yards from where I’m writing this) are not permitted to sound their horns, and I’ve wondered why and never really received a solid answer.
Not until the other day, that is, when one of the other elections judges, a native and longtime resident here, explained that it had to do with the town’s school being constantly interrupted by the blaring of train engine horns. The town and the Union Pacific had quite a battle before coming to an agreement that the horns would not be sounded if proper safety lane guards on the roads approaching the crossings were installed, preventing vehicles from skirting the gates in their down positions. It works, although there are occasions when some engineer forgets the ordinance and blows the engine’s horn!
Our voting location was in the town’s community center, home of the local Lions Club. I was somewhat taken aback when I overheard a few of the other election judges querying what exactly the Lions Club is. After they joked back and forth for a time that it was probably just another social club for the purpose of drinking, I cut in and explained to them that the Lions Club is one of a community’s greatest allies. To back up what I said, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and went to the Lions Club’s Web page and read the following to them:
“Our 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members make us the world’s largest service club organization. We’re also one of the most effective. Our members do whatever is needed to help their local communities. Everywhere we work, we make friends. With children who need eyeglasses, with seniors who don’t have enough to eat and with people we may never meet.”
I didn’t really have to say more, and I rather enjoyed correcting their misconceptions about a wonderful and vital organization. I am not a member, but I know several people who are, and I appreciate all that they do. Thank you, Lions!