In the process of voting

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"Guys, don't you get it, every time we vote we are voting against ourselves", I tried to point out to my colleagues-cum-team mates as we sat huddled around a table for our end of year party. "Hey come on, we gave you four votes on the last round!", gasped an opponent on the neighboring table as an end of round vote count was taking place. To say that the system descended into chaos would be to suggest that it was ever anything else; true, the lady who beat me by one point in the acting round of the competition did do a great job of convincing us she was constipated, but merit was long forgotten by that point.

It was a simple situation; ten tables with roughly five or six people per table; each round we'd send a suitable candidate to either sing, draw, dance or appear a little clogged up. Following each round we were asked to vote on the performance but with the exception of not being able to vote for one’s own representative. Yet, with this haphazard recognition system it soon became apparent to me that one should never rightly cast a vote for they'll only vote against themselves. Regardless, the voting went on; be it for recognition of merit and a willingness to ‘enjoy-the-taking-part’, or be it for the tit-for-tat; back scratching; "we voted for your shit skit, where's our payback?".

Naturally I took it all very seriously, paying careful attention to the new and unavoidable vote bartering, yet conscious that we'd always schemed the better result. As the competition concluded our mixture of great team performances and vote trading brought about a tie for first place with the Media Monitoring department, for which was oddly settled with a round of tug-of-war. Our failure here was in accepting the newer and shinier end of the two-part, make-shift rope, leading to a swift demise and very sore hands.

Another small voting matter took place this weekend, with equally as many peculiarities and equally as contended. This weekend saw the elections for the parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran; which – depending on what side of the Atlantic you stood – was an event that would test of the president’s approval, or be a display of defiance against the Grand Arrogance.

‘who’ and ‘what’ were therefore interchangeable; without somebody to vote for there was nothing to vote for

“Are you going to vote?”, became a repeated question asked by very few optimists. Many considered that I’d presented my willingness with these words, for which were often thrown back with a, “what is there to vote for?”. This question would rouse resentment, for which seemed to centre around the vetting process, whereby many so called reformist candidate didn’t gain prior approval by the Guardian Council (the supreme authority in Iran). The words ‘who’ and ‘what’ were therefore interchangeable and thus without somebody to vote for there was nothing to vote for.

A friend of mine assured me that one must be pragmatic; that one must pick the lesser-of two-evils and to at least put an, “urgently needed halt to some upcoming disastrous policies”. I could appreciate his desire for crisis management but wasn’t convinced that this is a sensible solution.

My friend stood alone among all those in my circles. “What for?”, became the reasoning for a boycott, but yet again I found no comfort in this being a solution. I was reminded of the end of year work party, "guys, don't you get it, every time we vote we are voting against ourselves", but like the party we would surely end with a tug-of-war.

I’d gathered a few friends for lunch on the big day, whereby we’d hoped to reach a decision for the will-we-won’t-we? I’d pitched my optimist friend against a self proclaimed intellect with opposing views, yet the resulting sparks – though entertaining –still had me sat on the fence. The decision tormented me as I tried to openly consider all options. My immediate options were as follows: to vote (pragmatically and based on trusted advice; for I was desperately lacking), to boycott or to spoil the ballot. Each option held a weight that tugged hard against the other, yet the rope seemed to somehow be wrapped around our throats with only the means to breathe being the thing that would give.


“I think Iran is a relative beacon of light in the region and in some ways refreshingly honest with its democratic process”

“So who did you vote for?”, came a microphone to my face, “I don’t know”, I responded, being half true and slightly ambiguous in my words. “So what do you think of the elections so far?”, returned the microphone, “In what respect?”, I questioned, conscious of all the eyes turning in my direction as I spoke in English. “It’s interesting to observe so many people having faith in a strange ideal”, I continued, sticking with the ambiguity. Her questions were also vague as she alluded to how things compared in a global context, “I think Iran is a relative beacon of light in the region and in some ways refreshingly honest with its democratic process”. Her astonished face led me to want to retract my words, “how do you mean?”, she came back at me, “well, the controversial vetting process, I’d say other nations have more subtle means, but nevertheless have some form of vetting; it’s interesting to see that it’s rather straight-up here”. My indifference almost silenced her; it seemed too much to consider that somebody from beyond these borders wasn’t bleeting for democracy. Again she asked what I thought of this local display, yet I didn’t know what to add, “you tell me, you’ve been here longer. How does it feel for you? Do you think this is going well?”, I said in agitation. As I turned the questions around, she turned her microphone around, flicking the off switch underneath and indicating to the cameraman that they were done.

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The director's birthday cake

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"If vee look at dee graph ve can see der eez several picks", continued my colleague in her monotone drone as she readjusted her headscarf with the beginning of each projected PowerPoint slide. I looked on in horror as a graph indicated PICK, PICK, PICK, PICK and a fifth PICK, all of which marking high points with some audience of some form of media; the subject of which was lost on me as the lines reached up only to be capped with an excitingly coloured misspelling. I shriveled back in my chair to hide from the other native English speaking in the room for whom we were presenting to. "PEAK, PEAK, PEAK, PEAK and frinkin' PEAK!", I muttered into my hand, conscious of how this only reflects badly on me.

"Using world of mouth", popped up on a later slide for which a further crevice on the chair refused to absorb me as I edged further back. Over 300-slides flashed before us during the 3-hour pitch to a private mobile network provider, a recent comer to the market of which broke the state run monopoly. Me and seven other colleagues arrived to try an achieve what we didn't last year with the previous pitch. "Daveed, I want you to present the creative side of the pitch", announced the company director having just dragged me from the busy studio. Being slightly concerned that the development of the proposed campaign evolved way beyond my understanding (due to my attention being needed elsewhere) I suggested another colleague. "Why me?", I asked, trying to hide the traces of stress in my voice while tapping my pen down on a long list of other projects bullet pointed in my diary. "Prestige", responded the marketing direct to my other side, leading me to draw the pen to the pending new year date circled on the lower end of the diary. The thick circle transformed to a zero before my eyes, for which I imagined being added to the end of my pending salary increase.

"What does the slogan exactly translate as again?", I asked the director as he stared on emotionlessly, "is this it?", he responded, "have you started the presentation?". He knew only too well that not only I but the entire department lost the love for the concept – his concept – upon having it forced on us; poo pooing all the others shortlisted. Before the four unimpressed eyes my embarrassment shifted to confusion as I once again questioned exactly who assumed the most senior creative role.

Who holds the most senior creative role has been a mystery to me ever since joining the company - at times I've erroneously considered it might be me. Not only has this been illustrated otherwise on many occasions but was literally evident on slide 245 whereby by an incorrect spelling of my name sat below that of a former colleague who no longer works for the company.

During the live performance I animated myself as best I could to the shortened version of the creative team's section of the presentation. I tried to gloss over the fact that the concept didn't seem to correspond with how things function with mobile network providers and compensated for this in a fine display of BS, plucked from thin air as it seemed appropriate. The result was a grinning director and none of the glaring gaps pointed out by the prospective client.

But then pinkie needed to go, leaving me baffled as to why the presentation continued in English

One-by-one our team stood before the four bemused Iranian faces and one foreign key player's. It was bizarre to hear my colleagues present their respective department's efforts in English and yet pleasing to hear that more errors existed in the typed word glowing before us. Two of the twelve watched in comfort, but then pinkie needed to go, leaving me baffled as to why the presentation continued in English; was all this for my benefit I thought as I pinched myself. This lasted about 20-slides before we all realised that we were Iranian and thus heated words were exchanged in the resulting power vacuum.

Their second in command emerged with peculiar criticisms, maybe to show us that he warrants his role despite his age. None of these made sense to our side of the table as he careered on and above the noise brought about by the open-office, "Salam Mehdi jaan, sedaam miad... Allo, Mehdi... Khoobi?". The resulting laughter wasn't helping number two's platform. "Allo, Mehdi, goosh kon... Mehdi, balah baleh... nah, 'W.W.W, dot, eye arr aye'... Mehdi? Gerefti? 'W.W.W, dot', Mehdi?", continued the hilariously loud voice as I pondered if the network provider in use was also the one we'd come to try and win work from.

My director rose to conclude the tiring episode and brought laughter again to the room with his repeated mention of not being served tea as yet, "it's not Ramazan is it?", he remarked, only getting another wry smile from the other side of the table. We were done; laptops closed; notes gathered and hands shaken, we took to the lift and waited for the doors to close before expressing our thoughts on the afternoon. Unlike my colleagues I grumbled on about the absence of warm beverages; questioning what exactly we in Iran are trading these days.

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