Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tales from the Phone Bank

I did some volunteering for Organizing for America this weekend for the November 2 election. While it lacks the feeling of breathless momentum that volunteering in the 2008 carried with it, I find it moderately comforting to know that even if the Republicans take the House or Senate, I won't suffer the anguish of having done nothing for the next four years. I earned a grudging acknowledgement from Jane the other night, who said I "put my money where my mouth is" after volunteer shift # 4. Jane wants no part of any sort of phone banking or canvassing effort, so every Sunday evening for the last three weeks or so, I have tottled off to a MoveOn or OFA on my home.

And I get why she is totally uninterested. Calling people is a bummer, because you are intruding on their space. People feel extraordinary license to be rude over the phone. They hang up, they tell you how little use they have for your candidate, they point out how many times they have been called. Often not nicely.

I got a kick out of how a conversation I had with someone like this ended yesterday. OFA's lists are usually really well organized, with all the people in one household in one place, but yesterday they had dispersed names of family members across different lists given to several different people, so if you had several children and a husband who were all registered voters, it would be possible to receive several calls from different volunteers in less than an hour. I reached a woman who said she had received "3 calls in fifteen minutes from us and what did I really want to ask her son anyway?"

ME: "I just wanted to ask if he is planning to vote," says I.

ANGRY MOTHER: "Devon, (names have been changed to protect the guilty) this woman wants to know if you are planning to vote!"

DEVON: uninteligible speech

ANGRY MOTHER: (To Devon) "What's in for you? I'll tell you what's in it for you. Healthcare for starters." (To Me) "You can put down that he is going to vote, because I am his mother and if he doesn't I am going to kick his ass."

I told her it sounded like she had the situation under control and got off the phone as quickly as possible. I was also supposed to ask about the daughter in the house, but I figured the best thing for the Get Out the Vote Effort was to leave her alone and let her work her magic.

The thing I wish most in the world today would be to be able to call my Mom and tell her that story.