Friday, August 28, 2015

Voting is a Waste of Time

I had been planning for some time to get my biometrics processed so I could vote in the next elections. I knew I had to hie off to the local COMELEC office, and that was a bit of a problem because (1) I had never been there before and (2) my work schedule kept getting in the way.

So imagine my delight when I read last weekend that COMELEC would be coming to the SM Lanang, very close to where we lived, so people could register. It was one day only, however, August 26, from ten in the morning to five in the afternoon. I would have to take some time off from work, but since it was so close and, on paper, so convenient, I figured it was worth it.

It turns out, it wasn't. After all our errands for the day, my wife and I finally made it to the mall at a quarter to three. The notices said 10AM to 5PM so that should have been enough time. It turns out, it wasn't.

By the time we got there, there were a 150 or so people sitting on rows of chairs, waiting for...something. We had not the first clue what to do. It would have been helpful if there was someone to guide us, but no. We did see a short line of people, leading up to a woman on a desk with a sign behind her: STEP 1-FORMS.

We thought that must have been it. We fell in line and a minute later, an SM guard came to ask us if we had just arrived. I answered in the affirmative.

"Oh, then you'll have to get in line," he said.

"Isn't this the line?" I asked.

He shook his head. He pointed to the last row of seated constituents, with some ten more people lined up behind it.

In hindsight, my wife and I should have given up just then and there. We would have been numbers 161 and 162. Did we really want to go through the hassle? But then I thought: we were already there, so why not. How bad could it be?

We dutifully lined up. After twenty minutes, the queue had shifted forward to the point where we could already sit down. So it was moving, after all. Every so often, we would move to the next seat, like a giant game of Snake on the old Nokia cellphones.

Time passed. I eavesdropped on conversations around me. I shoulder-surfed on a matron going through her Facebook timeline. I napped. Three o'clock gave way to four o'clock. We were still only a quarter of the way through.

A woman from COMELEC made an announcement up front. "If you can't get your biometrics done today, we'll just give you the forms. You can submit to the office and get your biometrics read." Or something to that effect, as far as I was able to interpret it. It was 4:20PM.

By that, I thought they would make sure we all got forms. A bit of a hassle, but okay, nothing we can do about it. Might as well see it through, right?

There's this thing called the sunk cost fallacy. It's the thinking that goes: "I've already come this far, I've put in so much time and effort and money, it would *just* be such a waste to give up now." Well, that was just the trap we fell into.

By 4:50PM, there was a commotion up front. The woman at the desk announced they were closing. We were still two rows behind. And just like that, she and her colleagues got up, swept the blank forms into their envelopes, and prepared to leave.

It amazes me how they showed no remorse or regret, not even a formal apology how they could not accommodate us all. Five o'clock was five o'clock. Government drone, true to form.

Someone (not me, because I was pretty chill) made an issue of it. Aren't you at least going to give us forms? No, you should have come earlier; if you come past three, we can't process you. Then why the hell did you let us line up?! Shrug.

One would have thought, if they wanted us to do our civic duty, they would make things easier for us. Instead, they only had one server, only one person giving out forms. Of course the going will be at a snail's pace. Common sense could quickly identify the bottlenecks and provide some solutions. Or at the very least, some consideration for people's time. But oh, no, we're just doing our jobs.

Voting is a waste of time. I'm not saying it as a platitude. I lost two hours of what could have been given to productive work, and still, all for nothing. And for what? So I could cast a ballot for candidates I don't give two flying figs about.