Kelso: Turns out, voting is for the birds

I figured some knucklehead might cause a stink when I showed up at the polls Friday morning to vote in a Big Bird outfit.

So I called the Travis County clerk’s office in advance, to make sure I wouldn’t be breaking any laws.

After all, who wants to go to jail dressed like Big Bird? Not me, that’s who. The what-are-you-in-for questions would be embarrassing. Of course, the answer would be, “Fowl play.” And I sure didn’t want to lose my vote over a pile of yellow feathers.

“I checked with the head of the elections division, and he said that, no, it is not illegal to vote in a Big Bird outfit,” said Ginny Ballard, a spokeswoman for the Travis County clerk’s office.

Just putting the suit on back at the house was a challenge. I had to ask my wife, Kay, to help me put the thing on because I couldn’t figure out what went where. I’ve had less trouble with a tux. The bird suit is a three-piece, and if you put the pieces on in the wrong order, as I did, you end up being held prisoner in the suit. Also, there was no place to put my car keys.

“You’ve got it on upside down,” Kay said. “These are the arms, and this is the tail.” Who knew? “I did not see this in my future,” Kay added.

I didn’t pull this stunt because I’m a big fan of Big Bird. Nope, this one is Mitt Romney’s fault. If the Mittster hadn’t said during one of the presidential debates that he loves Big Bird, not likes but loves, I might have rented a Daffy Duck or a Tweety Bird suit instead. I prefer those two birds to Big Bird.

But when Romney said he would cut off funding to PBS, Big Bird’s boss, I decided to go to bat for the yellow guy.

I thought Romney wanted to create jobs. And here he is proposing to cut off Big Bird’s paycheck? That’s love?

I had some concerns about this project. With that Big Bird head on, would the poll workers ask for my photo ID? The good news was that I knew I would be cuter than normal in the Big Bird outfit.

It was around 9 Friday morning when I, Big Bird, showed up at the Randalls supermarket at Slaughter and Brodie lanes in Southwest Austin to cast my vote.

Along with me was my bodyguard, Edd O’Donnell. Big Edd, who really is big, was wearing a semi-CIA outfit — a dark suit, a red tie and shades.

“I’m from the ACME security company,” Edd explained. “Don’t worry, sir,” he told somebody, but I couldn’t see who, since I was wearing the bird head. “I’m here to take a bullet for the Bird.”

Edd was very official. When people would walk close to me, Edd would tell them, “Step away from the bird.”

The line to get in and vote was long. Edd and I stood in it for more than half an hour. The Bird suit was like Lady Gaga — hot and itchy. An old guy standing in line in front of me the whole time was trying to ignore me, and he was doing a pretty good job of it. He probably thought I was an idiot. But a lot of women wanted to take my picture.

“I’ve got to get a picture of Big Bird going to vote,” one woman said. “That’s very good.”

“I shaved my legs for this?” Edd said.

“Vote right, Big Bird,” said a woman who was walking by. Maybe she was a Republican.

There was some grumbling from the right, by the way. Edd said one woman asked if the taxpayers were paying for my security, my security being Edd. People are easier to dupe than they used to be, huh? My “security” is being taken to lunch for his work, and I’m paying for it. We’re having chicken.

I didn’t have any problems getting past the poll workers. For one thing, they’d been alerted that Big Bird was coming. And by the time I reached them, I had taken off the enormous bird head. What a relief. Wearing the head was hot, and I didn’t want to pass out on the floor dressed like a spastic canary.

“I’m not giving you mouth to mouth,” Edd said.

The poll workers wouldn’t let Edd into the voting booth area. A lady worker explained that if you are older than 18 and you’re not voting, you can’t come in.

“He’s only 16; he just had a bad weekend,” I told her.

On the way out, a woman who had her 2- or 3-year-old boy in tow asked me if she could take my picture with the kid.

“This is awesome,” she said.

The poor kid didn’t think it was so darned awesome. He was terrified of Big Bird. So Big Bird held his tiny hand to try to reassure him while Mom snapped our picture.

“This kid had Muppetphobia, which is a natural fear of Muppets,” Edd explained. “You couldn’t see it, but he kept grabbing his crotch.”

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