I love voting.
I used to work with a woman who was obsessed with anything in the democratic process: voting, jury duty, traffic court, you name it. However, this post has nothing to do with politics.
I went to the library yesterday and they didn't have the books I wanted. (No biggie, you think.) But it is a big deal. I went to find the books on my Shelfari list for my thesis and most of them I couldn't find. I changed my topic from natural childbirth to the importance of the local food movement, eating organics and supporting small family farms. Of course this means I get to read fantastic books that I will find gloriously interesting, but I can't get my hands on them.
Tonight I got on the website for my local library and put holds on all the books I couldn't find and requested the purchase of books that weren't in the library system catalog. Gratefully, the resources I wanted were mostly there, but putting a hold on my text sends a message: people want to read this book. Sure, I could just keep visiting the library and keep searching and waiting, but I also know that librarians are crazy-interested in what people are reading. So, I wanted to tell them.
I also wanted to tell them that these topics are important to me and request the expansion of their collection by suggesting the purchase of other books that will appeal to other residents. I can imagine being a librarian and looking at lists of possible new-reads and just picking at random. Wouldn't it be great for a local resident to tell the librarian what books people want to read? The last time I went into the library there was an advertisement for a new class to learn anime (drawing, mind you, not reading) and a huge section of new Japanese comic books. I was really upset when I saw it, but I realized that's what people are reading. The people who are drawn to those books are sending their vote loud and clear to the library system: we want more.
The idea of voting is fantastic and it happens everywhere. My personal favorite is the grocery store because it's a great place to send corporate messages without having to dig out my letterhead. I shop almost exclusively at a natural food co-op. I love bulk bins and fresh local produce, but sometimes I get stuck somewhere and stop at a mainstream supermarket. This is when it counts.
I know that every item that passes to be scanned is being inventoried and it sends a signal of what is important to me. It is such a temptation being in a large supermarket, seeing items "I never get to buy" and having the notion that no one will notice my little mainstream purchase. But they do. In fact, it's the non-mainstream they notice more. Marketing and advertising groups desperately want to know how I shop and how well new products are selling. I went to a market the other day and saw unbleached, recycled parchment paper. I didn't need it, but I was delighted it was something the market was including in their offerings, so I bought it (Impulsive, I know. Some people buy designer handbags, I buy recycled parchment paper).
I know that my purchases at the grocery store are intentional, but so is political voting. Strategic groups watch demographic profiles very carefully and poll frequently to see what issues are important to them, anticipate their responses and (hopefully) ultimately meet their needs.
When I reach the check-out lane and they enter their inventory code for 5 cents off for each bag I bring in, I illustrate that consumers can be responsible enough to bring in reuseable containers and that the market doesn't have to invest as much money in plastic bags and processing of fossil fuels.
I love giving my opinion and sometimes just sliding certain items across the check-out scanner is my fastest and easiest way to do that. I love voting - it's my American duty and right and I've never been so delighted to do it!
Photo credit: Flickr - Denise Cross