unexpected inspectorant: my day as a pollster.

I'm in between semesters and sort of drifting around without a substantive internship this summer, so when the opportunity to work as a pollster for this year's primary presented itself, I took it.

To be clear, I wasn't looking for any eye-opening epiphanies or resume builders. How could I? Poll workers aren't required to be especially skilled. The training for "Inspectors" provided by the Department of Elections is minimal: a three hour crash course in voting machine set up and job card distribution. I assume the training for the "Clerk" position is even less. Still, the required 16 hour day is impressive and requires dedication that not all people possess, and I decided the long hours seemed to be an okay trade-off for a chance to be on the inside of the democratic process. This brings me to the realization that would stay with me throughout the day as I stood in a freezing Sunset District Church at 6:00 in the morning:

People are assholes.

And I don't mean "assholes" that in the broad sort of dismissive sense that I may have used before this particular voting day. I mean that the human beings of the world (as evidenced by the sample size and consistency of those who came to my place to vote) are entitled, impatient, and unpleasant creatures. 

From my end, our precinct location operated smoothly. This was a pleasant surprise considering our team consisted of myself, three high-school aged teens, and a woman in overalls and crocs who never once stopped talking. I was grateful for their experience, however, when it be came clear that I was the only one who'd never worked the polls before. We all worked hard, and despite sleep deprivation and freezing wind typical of The Avenues, we remained pleasant. Yet every person who came in and didn't get what they expected was a complete jerk. To wit:

Us: "I'm sorry sir, you're not in our roster. What is your precinct number so we can find ya?"
Voter: "UM (ugh!) YOU TELL ME."
Us: "Well, here's a map, let's get you to he right place..."
Us: "I'm sure you are, sir, but--"
Voter: "No thanks, I'll just wander around until I find it. If I DO find it at least y'all will have done something right."

This sort of interaction was typical and occurred over and over again  relentlessly. It was so draining and demoralizing. Inside my head I screamed "FUCK OFF!" over and over again. There we were, taking time out of our own lives to be helpful and support the whole voting process, and voter after voter was shitting in our easter basket. On one of my breaks from the polls, I perused Twitter, urging my friends to vote during this tiny, yet ever-important election. I found the arrogant and disrespectful attitude there too, peppered among the conversations of a few the tweeters I follow who complained into the internet about how dumb pollsters are. One guy in the East Bay said he "taught them how to look up his name in an alphabetical index." So insulting. It can be frustrating to watch someone struggle with something that looks to be easy, but let's consider that we're here to HELP YOU and that we've received laughably insignificant training with which to do so. Why don't you sit down here for a full day and deal with navigating the phonetics of unfamiliar surnames while people roll their eyes at you or sigh audibly or (my favorite) take the roster from you and point exasperatedly at whoever the fuck they are? Some asshole would surely expose your incompetence to the world just as unabashedly. 

When I finally got us packed up at about 9:30 PM, I'd been thinking about this crap long enough to lose the spring in my step with which I'd begun this whole adventure. Who the hell do people think they are? I was mad - fuming - about the attitudes. 

Two days later, I'm plopped down at the headquarters of my favorite coffee roaster and discovering a greater takeaway: I can do something with this. I can use this flagrant assholism to be a better person myself. I can take a second to see where people are coming from before losing my own patience or rolling my own eyes at whatever I perceve to be incompetence on someone's part. So there's something. An opportunity to be positive where my natural human inclination is to be a gigantic asshole to anyone who slows me down. This experience asks that I calm down and take a second to be kind. This is, after all, what I wanted from the jerks that were so cranky on voting day, so it's the least I can offer others.

Of course, despite my perspective shift, I'm not moved enough to sign up for this shit again. Remember to vote! But you won't see me. And be nice to your pollsters, people. They're there for you.

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