Sunday, November 4, 2012

First Update From New York (11/2)

Summit 5 is currently staying in an undisclosed, but totally awesome, location. This location does not really have Internet service except for one place when my friend is nice, so my posting may be sporadic. I wrote this post on the night of November 2nd, so there's a bit of a time-delay, for which I apologize--there simply hasn't been internet between then and now. 

Sound good? Here we go. Summit 5 woke up at 5:30 this morning, was in the van by 6:15 and in New York state by 7:30. At 11 PM last night, my Team Leader got the call to move out tomorrow morning, so out we moved. Summit Five, Semper Nomadic. After fighting traffic, long gas lines and our own ignorance of the city—not to mention sketchy parking lot attendants—we got to our staging area in-town, got our assignment and headed out to a Red Cross shelter, which is all the location information I have. I couldn’t navigate this city with a map, a GPS and my own personal satellite.

When we finally got to the shelter, housed in Nassau Community College, our team and Bayou 2 were eventually assigned to help get people registered. The shelter was full of Red Cross employees, its back rooms full of bustling volunteers and shelter residents. We set up in teams of two to walk people through the registration process, but the problem was communication. Our AT&T Blackberries, which we were lending out so that people could call the helpline, were useless in that shelter. Ditto our government laptops, which we got out to (ideally) allow people to get on; there was no Wi-Fi and our Blackberries could not act as hotspots. Despite that, Joe and I were able to help one woman (in her nineties!) get registered on her friend’s personal phone, which made the hours of Blackberry “Call Failed” messages more than worth it.

After leaving work, we wolfed down the remains of our Subway foot-longs (half for lunch, half for dinner) and got into the van. As of this writing, we have not left it, thanks to some wrong turns that left us careening around the darkened streets of Brooklyn for more time than I care to admit. We eventually made it to New Jersey, where our housing is, and even managed to pick up some gasoline on the way. (Unfortunately, I think we burned most of it rolling around New York just now!) We’re heading to what I last heard described as a “barracks” to stay the night. No idea where we’re staying tomorrow night, no idea what we’re eating tomorrow—travel funds might not extend to tomorrow, and we’re simply not in one place long enough to buy and cook groceries and haul out the cookware—and no idea where we’re working tomorrow or what we’ll be doing. Such is life in FEMA Corps, but I’m happy to say we’re taking most of this in stride.

The one thing I am more than a little mad about is my absentee ballot. After a nearly five-week struggle to get registered, then to get my village office to mail me my ballot, then convincing the lovely people at the Government Accountability Board to email me a ballot because there was simply no way for a paper ballot to catch up with me, I finally have the stupid thing. It’s printed out, filled out and shoved in an envelope with all signatures intact. The only thing I need to do is pop the sonofabitch into a larger envelope, slap the requisite postage on it and mail it back to Wisconsin on or before Election Day. 

That may be more difficult than it seems, though, given the fact that I never know where we’ll be on a given day, and that there is often no time to go into a post office because we’re working, traveling to work or traveling from work. Because of gas shortages, my TL has forbidden extraneous trips to wherever else, which could scotch my hopes of voting absentee once and for all. I’m just keeping my eyes out for post offices, UPS, whatever that I can use and hoping like crazy that I can get it there in time. I have moved heaven and earth to even get the damned thing and I’m not going to let silly things like reality or temporal constraints stand in the way of returning it. Details to follow. (UPDATE—I crammed the stupid thing into an envelope, sealed it with masking tape, put four times the required number of stamps on the letter and hand-delivered it to a postal worker in New York City. BALLOT IN. I WIN, ELECTORAL SYSTEM.)

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