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11/05/2002: I hear there's a beach around here somewhere

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Richard drove back down to Santa Clara on Sunday night, since training started up again there on Monday. I, however, got one extra day to laze around the house and be completely unproductive before I had to leave. Actually I wasn't completely unproductive, because I did manage to not only track down my absentee ballot, but also fill it out and beg my mom to drop it off at the polling place for me (since it was too late to mail it).

I am used to getting absentee ballots from the county where I previously lived. I'm not sure if they simply changed what they do, or if each county is different, but the ones they sent us in this county are horrid. Basically you get this little card full of little numbered perforated squares. Each number corresponds to a particular candidate or issue. To vote, you have to punch out just the right numbered square. The problem was that the squares were so tiny that I was having problems with it, and I don't even want to imagine how difficult this would be for anyone with vision problems or dexterity issues. But all ballot-whining aside, I signed up for permanent absentee status deliberately because I knew that this was the only way I could reliably get myself to vote every time. So I sat down with my teeny tiny ballot card and a hairpin and I voted. Go me.

Once the ballot was punched and all ready to mail (or in my case, turn in), I met my mom for lunch (during which she handed me a bag of walnuts from their walnut tree –walnuts I helped a certain two-year-old little girl collect just two days earlier) and then after lunch I finished packing my suitcase, double-checked the food and litter boxes, waved goodbye to the cats, and then headed off to Santa Cruz, trying to time it just right so that I would miss the rush-hour traffic of the Bay Area. I think I barely managed to squeak past that, to tell the truth, since it was starting to get pretty busy as I drove through San Jose, but once I hit the lovely and incredibly winding road through trees and hills toward Santa Cruz it was just fine.

I was glad that I'd planned to drive during the day, since that gave me opportunity to ooh and aah like a giddy tourist at the scenery as I drove. My directions were fairly sketchy, but I found the hotel easily enough, checked in, and met one of my coworkers for dinner.

Today was the first day of training for Santa Cruz's mollusk handlers, and what a change it's been! Where they were surly in Santa Clara, they've been enthusiastic and friendly here. The classes are a bit smaller, which might help, but there also just seems to be a completely different attitude. Let's just say that if I ever ended up as a mollusk, I'd much rather be a mollusk in Santa Cruz than in Santa Clara (where the motto seemed to be – if a mollusk needs help, tell them to go away and leave us alone).

We did have a bit of a glitch at the beginning when we discovered that they had never installed the analog line for our training room. Luckily, after the phone system went down in the entire building the previous week, we were more than prepared, and easily transitioned from power point to actual software system once they finally tracked down someone who could fix it.

During these first few weeks of training we've had a lot of visitors, both from those who represent the state, to those who represent the company who actually develops and runs the software (we at Benthic Creatures merely train it). One of today's visitors very generously offered to take us trainers out to lunch between sessions, and recommended a little diner down the street – the Santa Cruz Diner. The waitress had a wicked sense of humor and the lunch was filled with witty banter. It's one of those small town type diners (and I mean this is a very good way) where the waitresses seem to recognize everyone who walks in, where you seat yourself, and where the food is abundant and delicious. We joked as we walked out that we may just have to do lunch there the rest of the week.

Because Santa Cruz is so close to where Richard's doing his training, we did manage to hook up tonight, since Richard's mom invited me to come down for dinner. Driving down the extremely curvy two-lane road at night is a completely different experience than driving it during daylight hours. Oof. It wasn't nearly as bad, however, when I reminded myself that the only time I'd ever been to Santa Cruz before, I had to make that drive while completely exhausted and trying desperately to keep myself awake.

The three of us trainers here in Santa Cruz are having a hard time orienting on the correct day. Technically, we know that today is Tuesday, but our Monday was free, and it's hard to get the brain to wrap around the fact that just because we didn't have to do anything doesn't mean yesterday was a weekend.

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