This evening was equipment training and exceptions training. Equipment training means learning how to operate the tabulator (the machine people stick ballots into), the voter assistance machine (it helps disabled voters mark their ballots) and the hand scanner. At the ballot table we have to scan the ballots and the ATVs (authorization to vote forms) to make sure everybody gets the right ballot style.
We broke into small groups to practice using the scanner. I was intimidated beforehand but it's really not hard. There's a little red crosshair that you hold over the barcode until it beeps. I guess if I'd worked retail in the past 15 years I would have done it already. They tried to make it relatively foolproof -- for instance it won't allow you to scan the same ATV twice.
The funny part was my small group. It was me, a guy and an older woman. We each took turns scanning a sample ballot and then we took turns starting up the scanner. When it was my turn, the older woman kept trying to yank it out of my hand -- I mean she literally grabbed my hand and tried to take the scanner from me. I didn't say anything, just didn't let her take it until I was done. While she took her turn I chatted with the guy. He's an ... I forget the term but he's an emergency judge. If someone's sick he fills in for them; otherwise he acts as a runner, delivering supplies to precincts throughout the day.
I thought this was really interesting so I was asking him a bunch of questions. Suddenly the older lady shouted at us, "I need help and you're standing there talking!" We were so taken aback we had a hard time not laughing. We thought she was reading the instructions aloud to herself, but apparently she was asking us for help. Without looking at us or phrasing anything as a question. Clearly we were remiss.
He apologized, which I thought was pretty generous of him. She just kept ranting about how we were supposed to help her and we were just talking. Then he said "Is that my job, to make sure you're doing okay? I'm sorry, I didn't realize that." The amazing thing was how even and pleasant he sounded. He really sounded like he was apologizing. But she took it at face value -- accepted his apology even.
I kept my mouth shut until after the session, then went up to him and congratulated him for handling that so well. He said he felt like he was being incredibly snarky! He must just be a super nice person. Even when he's trying to be sarcastic, it comes out kind and sincere. Not me -- if I tried to cut someone down, believe me, they'd know. Anyway we had a good laugh about it, and it wasn't until after he'd left that I realized I never even got his name. Oh well, maybe I'll see him at training again in 2012.