Saturday, April 16, 2005

Pink tulips on campus rock!

Spring has sprung, and I’ve planted my feet. Despite the glowing tulips and beautiful weather, I’m at rock bottom. I’m so anxious about school ending. Thursday was our last class as a group, and I’m sad that I’ll never get to sit around that table and hear my talented classmates speak their minds. I’ve NEVER gotten to know my classmates and teacher like I have in this class. The writing was funny at times, but very personal, too. It was an energizing class to say the least, and adding the end of this class to the heap of other issues in my life is not fun.
I’ve realized in the last month how much I love my friends, house and life in general right now, all of which will change abruptly in May. It will take so much work in the next few years to stay in touch and involved in all of my close friends’ lives. The only thing that is keeping me sane is the thought of making new friends in law school and then having the money one day to visit my friends wherever they may be.
So, my plea to this class is to keep up with your blogs. It can be a great method (aside from the phone and e-mail) for keeping people updated as to what’s happening in you life. When we get free reign with our blogs next week, don’t stop posting on them! Please! I’ll keep mine up, regardless of if you do, but it would be fun…
Lastly, thanks to all for being so much fun in class, thanks to Carolyn Mason for being such an awesome/inspiring teacher, and good luck in all of your adventures after school! Oh, and don’t forget to rub that big rock on the quad in front of Gorgas before graduation. It’s supposed to bring good luck after college…or so they say.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Meet Rob Veautaire

The following fictional piece was submitted for JN 412 opinion writing class contest. It tied for 4th among fierce competition for a grand prize of $5, a Cadbury Creme Egg, some Hershey's Kisses, and some malt ball whopper things in a cute, green bucket. Yessssssssssss! Thanks Carolyn!

“Finally finished.” After hours of studying, I glance at my watch – 1:30 a.m. That’s too late to walk home alone, so I call my roommate; she’s always up watching reruns. “Be there in ten,” she says.
I walk out of Rogers Library and down a dark sidewalk to the benches to wait when my legs are clipped out from under me. “What the hell?” I jump back up and look down, but I can’t see much in the dark. “What is that?” I blink a few times and finally make out a black box with white eyes and white hands. It’s glaring back at me and holding a cigarette.
“What?” snaps a deep voice.
I leap back a few feet and look around for someone. “Who said that?” I don’t see anyone so I look back at the box.
“Never seen a black box before?”
Oh, God. It’s definitely talking to me, and it sounds like Robert Dinero. I should really lay off the Adderall and get some sleep. “Not one that talks or smokes,” I say with a shaky voice. “What are you?”
“Uhh…” It hesitates, looking me up and down, then shrugs and says, “Okay. Siddown.”
Before sitting I pause to check it out again. It looks like a computer monitor with buttons around the frame. I make out the word “Diebold” imprinted on top. Sounds familiar, but I don’t know why. It’s wearing white gloves on hands that stick out of the sides of the monitor. It looks like a Shrek cartoon or a California Raison with its little gloves. Its squinty eyes show through slits in the black plastic above the screen. I have to wait on my ride anyway, so I sit down on the bench.
“Well, I thought I was busted, but then I saw your ‘Letters today, leaders tomorrow’ Greek t-shirt,” it confesses. “What are you doing here this late? I didn’t think students actually studied on this campus, especially Greeks.”
“Well…I’ve got a Fluid Mechanics test tomorrow.”
“Yikes. Rob Veautaire,” it says, sticking out a white glove.
“Uhh… Jamie,” I reply, shaking its little hand. “But what…what are you again?”
“Well, since you’re Greek I can tell you. You probably know about me anyway. I’m the Machine’s new machine.
“The what?”
“You know…the almighty Machine that’s been rigging elections here for the past century…controls the SGA,” he says waving his hands around like I should know this.
“Oh yeah. You’re its machine?”
“Yep, just flew in this week for the SGA elections. Cigarette?”
Dumfounded, I take a cigarette forgetting about my allergies. It continues…
“The Machine has never had an actual machine before, but they’re getting pretty desperate. The past few elections have been too close, and they’re worried sick about this one. So, when they heard about my work in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, they just knew that touch screen voting machines were the way to go.” He pauses to inhale his cigarette. The smoke seeps right back out of his side vents. “I pretty much delivered Ohio for Bush. It was great.” With little fists punching the air, he says, “I froze up so many times, rearranging the numbers before they could get me back online. Then they’d boot me up and just keep sending in voters. Ha, ha…anyway, so the Machine recruited me for the SGA elections.”
Whoa. The Machine has an actual machine. I can’t believe this. “So you’re telling me that you’re a voting machine from Ohio that stole votes to elect George Bush?”
“That’s right.”
“And now you’re here to rig our election?”
“Yep – but you understand. Your Machine has been rigging elections since 1914. But it’s been slipping a little bit – it’s actually got competition this year. The Independent Voters’ Association has been working its ass off. It’s really increased its membership, and supposedly President Witt slid some money under the table for its campaign.”
“But they can’t out vote us. We always have a higher voter turnout,” I say as the shock from a talking piece of equipment wears off.
“I don’t know. It’s looking tight. With Greek numbers down in the machine houses and a stronger IVA, the Machine’s not taking any chances,” he says tossing his cigarette in the grass.
“But I still don’t see how it’s in trouble. Hal Mooty won last year?” I continue, starting to wonder what else the Machine controls.
“Oh, come on. Do you think that ten years ago the Machine would have let the school kick the DKEs out of their house for stadium expansions? The oldest frat house on campus kicked out for football? Please. The old Machine would have had them moving Bryant Drive before they’d let anyone touch that house.”
“Oh. I guess I see what you’re saying. But do you ever feel bad for what you do? Sometimes I...”
“What?” he bellows through a cough, lighting another cigarette and jumps up on the bench with on a pair of over-sized feet that were concealed under his boxy frame. “Of course not! Elections are too important to be left up to voters! I can’t let decades of tradition go down the drain just because I feel bad,” he rants using air quotes with his gloved fingers. “It’s about delivering quality leaders for this nation. But what about you? You do the same thing,” he says pointing a finger at me.
“Hey, I just joined for the parties and friends. And it’s not like I tamper with votes like you do. I just place my vote…along with a few thousand friends. I guess that’s still pretty bad. I’m sorry. I should be thanking you… So, any more new secrets that I don’t know about?”
“Actually yeah, but a lot are still in the works. So, I can only tell about the newest scheme planned for this year. Since I’ll be here until the next presidential election in 2008, they’ve contracted me to fix class schedules for the next three years giving enrollment priority to Greeks. I’ll also be rigging the registration printouts, so Greeks can enroll a week earlier than other students…even the football players. Ha! They think they can knock down the DKE house and get away with it? It’ll be 8 a.m. classes for them! No more basket weaving for Brodie!”
“Well, that’s just…amazing.” Unbelievable. The Machine is into everything. I wonder… “So Rob, where are they hiding you, and how did they work it out with the University to use new machines?”
“They practically spoon-fed the idea to The University. During a board meeting, they had an insider suggest the Diebold systems, and they loved it. The University ordered ten legitimate machines, and the Machine ordered us. They’re keeping us in the basement of the new parking deck. They call it the Bear Hole. It turns out that the CEO of the construction company building it was a former Machine president, so they built underground offices for the Machine underneath the garage. The night before the election, our Dean of Students office connection is gonna unlock the Ferg and switch us with the real machines. We’ll be set! But that basement’s no picnic. I’m stuck down there all day, reading stuff about UA and everyone’s yapping about selections…”
“There’s my ride.” I push myself up, a little woozy from the cigarette. “It was nice to meet you, Rob.”
“Pleasure’s all mine. And don’t you worry about that Fluids test. I’ll be changing your grades anyway! What’s your name again?”
“Jamie…Smith. Good luck crunching those numbers.” As I run over to Katie’s car, my heart is beating out of me. Little does Rob know that my t-shirt is really my work shirt for that new store that sells Greek stuff called Letters. Greek my ass! Wait till the CW hears this. We’ll finally bust the Machine! Even if we can’t get Mr. Rob Veautaire talking again, there’s no way they can hide the crooked machines on Election Day. I’ll be damned if I let some idiot get an A in Fluid Mechanics just for being a Greek!
“Hey Katie, listen to this…”

Jamie, who’s real name is Lindsay, shuts the car door and spills her story.
Weeks later, after numerous psych evaluations, Lindsay’s parents moved her out of Tutwiler and into Bryce Hospital for paranoid psychosis treatment. During the televised SGA acceptance speeches, Lindsay had a full-fledged psychotic breakdown and was diagnosed with permanent delusional disorder. Lindsay still rants that Rob Veautaire lives under the new parking garage and is rigging elections and changing students’ grades.
Down in the Bear Hole, Rob Veautaire has begun his work on Fall 2005 schedules. Pulling up Brodie Croyle’s name, he remembers Jamie Smith and how it turned out that there weren’t any female Jamie Smiths registered in Fluid Mechanics or at UA. “Hmmm? Oh well, back to Brodie’s schedule…8am lab…check. Ha! I love my job.”

Disclaimer: While based on plausible speculations about voter fraud in the 2004 Election and the existence of the Machine, this story has no factual content.