A fanatic is someone who cant change his mind and wont change the subject.
- Sir Winston Churchill
In one of the cleverest telemarketing calls Ive ever received, the sweet-voiced lady on the other end of the line asked if I had a few minutes to help her with a research project. Since I have some idea how difficult research can be, I pressed the mute button on my TV remote and accepted her worthy request.
But after a few questions like, Are you satisfied with your current utility provider if you had a choice, and the price and service of a new provider were superior to the one you have now etc., it didnt take long to discover that her research was only a disguised pitch for new customers for an alternate utility company.
More than a little upset at my own gullibility, I told her I was completely satisfied with the company that powered my home now, and ended the interview. But not before she fired her finest shot.
"Maam, she said, in the same sweet voice she had used in the beginning, Are you afraid of change?
I dont remember how I got out of that one, except to say if she earned a sales bonus that month, it wasnt because of me.
Am I afraid of change? Probably. Like most people. Among other things, Ive been called opinionated, inflexible, or a stubborn Yankee - not bad for an opinion columnist, I guess. But when it really matters, when the outcome is more important than a $5 or $10 difference in my utility bill, I hope those words apply only when my opinion is the result of more than the slanted research my utility telemarketer used on me.
With less than a week to go before another election, its probably obvious where Im going with my slanted, opening ploy. How are you going to vote? Are you going to vote, or are you going to sit this one out because, I dont like anyone who is running for office, and Im not using those corrupt, devil-designed new voting machines?
Talk about inflexible, opinionated, and afraid of change. Or maybe thats just, afraid.
Ive resisted a lot of changes, too, either because I doubted the new was better than the old, or I wasnt sure I was capable of using the new. Im usually the last person in the neighborhood to get a new-fangled appliance - like owning my first clothes dryer after the (cloth) diaper years were long past - and for years I resisted buying a computer because I was sure I would never be able to figure out how to use it.
Today I cant imagine living without a dryer, or maintaining a busy writing schedule with the typewriter as my only tool. But I wouldnt have known how beneficial and easy-to-use either machine was if I hadnt used one in the first place.
Unfortunately, sometimes marking a ballot is a choice between the lesser of two evils. (Judging by some of the current, multi-million-dollar, attack-ad races, Im surprised any qualified candidates run at all.) But failing to vote because you dont like the new machines, and you didnt take any of the dozens or so opportunities in past weeks to learn how, is hard to understand.
No stranger to paranoia myself, I used to wonder if those cards we used to punch were lined up the way the names and issues were placed on the ballot, but I punched away in good faith anyway. After seeing several demonstrations of the new machines, I have no doubt anyone who can slide a credit card into a gas pump slot, or use an automatic teller machine, can also vote the new way.
As for the accuracy of the voting machines, after years of sending letters and other written material across town and around the world by e-mail without any of my messages being lost in the mail, Im confident that the blocks I punch on next weeks e-ballot will be accurate, too.
The problem in the Florida Primary election a few months ago had nothing to do with their new machines, but everything to do with improperly trained polling officials who, sometimes, didnt even know how to turn the machines on.
Please, voters of Columbia County, lets overcome our fear of change, and exercise our opinionated selves at the polls next week.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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