If all goes according to plan, this will be the last general election ever that we in King County get to cast our votes at a neighborhood polling place. Time constraints, technology, and lifestyles that send us spinning through our everyday orbits seem to have made the old-fashioned polling place out of date. So when I went in to the local elementary school gym to cast my ballot this morning, I was feeling wistful. As a kid, I remember the hushed tones, the strange comings and goings of adults who came to our school on voting day. I was fascinated by the posted signs and the ritual that took place: what was so important that all these grown-ups came to school on a work day? What were they doing behind those curtains? Why was it as quiet as church? Back then, the voting machines were surrounded with drapes that created a private cave in which to exercise your franchise. When you were done pushing levers, you grabbed a handle that opened the curtains with a "clack," which was also the sound of the machine recording your votes. I was a poll worker once, in 1972. It was a patronage position, sort of. I was 18, a brand-new voter. I had gone through the Democratic caucus process and was selected as an antiwar, anti-Scoop Jackson delegate (all those for Edmund Muskie, George McGovern, Shirley Chisholm or whomever were lumped into one coalition). Henry "Scoop" Jackson was running for the presidential nomination and we were routed by this favorite son who wanted to control all the state's delegates to the national convention. But my precinct committeeman had the power to dole out poll worker jobs and that fall, despite my anti-Jackson apostasy, I got one. I worked at the Mount Baker Community Club. I loved seeing my friends' parents and our neighbors coming in to vote. Despite my bias in the election, it never occurred to be to be anything but scrupulously fair, polite and nonpartisan in my role. I suppose it was like being an altar boy for democracy for a day. It was a rite of passage too. I sat in a place where I had taken dance lessons--part of our adolescent initiation into adulthood--and helped friends and neighbors partake in the sacred act of voting. Many were surprised to see that I'd grown up. At the very least, the thrill of being a part of things that day took some of the sting out of Nixon's landslide. That, of course, began a long tradition of post-election emotional hangovers. I'm afraid those are likely to continue, polling places or not.