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Tis almost the season for Peppermint Bark.
Phone Bank Experience
Nov 03, 2008 14:52
The election has me worked up. I have never before cared so passionately about a candidate. Because for the first time I feel that the candidate cares about ME. I loved Bill Clinton. I voted for him (my first time voting was his re-election!). I felt that Bill had a compassion, respect and an understanding of the people. So he won my respect, and my vote.
With Barack Obama I feel so much more. I have never in my life experienced a candidate who is so thoroughly OF the people. I feel like he sees me. He understands me. Knows what it’s like. To live check to check. To want things he can’t have. To know what’s right for himself and for people and to care about it. To hurt and to feel.
More and more, when I hear him speak, I find myself moved nearly to tears. I know his wife came under fire for this exact comment but “For the first time, I am proud to be American.” That is a huge statement. I’ve never really cared before in the way that I care now. I’ve never understood how important my vote was. Not even after the stolen election of 2000, did I have so much heart in my 2004 vote as I do this year.
So yesterday morning, I woke up, and I felt like Doing Something. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or even what I could do, but I did know that this campaign is a campaign OF THE PEOPLE, and my answer wouldn’t be hard to find. I went to BarackObama.com and there way my answer, right on the homepage. “Want to volunteer?” the website asked me. “Enter your zip code below”.
I excitedly entered my zipcode in the box, breathing hard with each click. 1. 1. 1. 0. 2.
A list popped up on my screen. “Last Chance to Call for Change”. Phone banks. All over New York City. I clicked one. It was at Gustavino’s, a huge restaurant that was home to a weekly party the first Summer I was grown enough to party in NY. I thought the placed had closed down. I read the blurb. All I needed to do was show up with my cell phone and charger, and they’d take care of the rest. I was nervous about asking people for money but I felt so moved to contribute more that the donations I’ve made that I got up and into the shower.
In no time at all, 3 friends and I were on the train, bundled up with scarves, coats and Uggs, heading to 59th st and 1st Avenue, under the Queesboro Bridge. We walked up the steps and started cheering when we saw Obama/Biden signs stuck to the walls. People outside taking smoke breaks smiled and cheered with us.
We headed in and saw a sign-in table. A woman handed us clip-boards and we signed in. She directed us to the restaurant bar, where a woman was pulling together sheets. We each grabbed a stack and another volunteer asked if we had called voters before or if it was our first time. We nervously but excitedly said it was our first time. HE directed us to a woman at a round table who would train us.
The woman was Cuban from Miami. Her entire family were Republicans. She explained we were through with fundraising, and these calls would be all about making sure people knew where and when to vote. We all looked at each other skeptically, and she assured us that we were helping to do this. People really don’t know all of the basic facts in order to vote. We each got 4 sheets of names, and all were registered Democrats. Phone numbers were listed next to names, along with polling places, and some boxes with abbreviations that we could check - “V = Voted, WV = Will Vote, WNV = Will Note Vote, MC = McCain Vote, LM = Left Message, N/A = anything else - wrong number, person not available, whatever.”
We walked towards the tables full of volunteers and saw a half-empty table in the middle of the room. At the table were a White woman in her mid 50’s, a man who looked to be mixed Asian and White that we learned was in his 40’s, and a 19 year old Black girl. All 3 smiled at us as we sat. We smiled back, took deep breaths and got to dialing.
My first 3 calls were ALL disconnected. I got a weird feeling, and wondered briefly if McCain’s camp had somehow tampered with Florida Democrat phone lines (a conspiracy theorist? Moi? Never!). So I went from the bottom of the sheet. A voicemail! I left a message, reminding the man that early voting had ended in Florida, and that the ONLY other day to vote was November 4th. I told his voicemail that the Florida polls were open from 7am - 7pm that day. I recited his polling place, as well as a toll-free number and the voteforchange website he could check if he had any further questions. I thanked him and hung up.
On and on it went. I got lots of voice-mails, lots of disconnected numbers. Of the 300 people I called I got 4 McCain supporters on the phone and got quite an earful from only one of them. I didn’t want to argue so I just told him I respected his opinion and asked if he’d like his polling site information, as I had it in front of me. He hung up on me at that point. I got a 93 year old WWII veteran who was as yet undecided on where his vote lay. We spoke for 15 minutes. We debated the issues, in a friendly and sometimes funny way. I educated him on Obama’s foreign policy stance. He was from another time. Literally. He couldn’t fathom extending an arm to a nation we would have been at war with. On every other issue he agreed with Obama over McCain. I don’t know that I convinced him right then, but I hope that when he does get into the booth, if he is still undecided, he will remember a spirited debate with a laughing young woman on Sunday afternoon and it will associate a good feeling with my candidate. With our candidate. I hope he votes for Obama.
We sat and called. We paced and called. We took apple juice breaks, water breaks, bathroom breaks. Somebody shouted that we had the phone bank’s daily goal of 10,000 calls! We took an animal cracker break. The sun set. The wind whipped loudly against the tall windows. The lights flickered. We called and called.
People thanked me for telling them their polling sites. They thanked me for telling there where they could find out how to get an absentee ballot. They thanked me for telling them that early voting had ended and they couldn’t vote Monday. They thanked me for telling them that as long as they were in line when the polls closed they would be given the opportunity to vote. They asked if they could vote somewhere else. They asked what times the polls opened. They asked for the website. They asked for the phone number. Over and over they thanked me, asked me questions, confirmed their information, promised they would vote! People told me they’d already voted. That they’d brought their entire family and stood in line for 5 hours to vote. That they had voted for the first time ever. People told me they were scared that someone would stop them from voting. They were scared they wouldn’t be allowed in. They were scared that McCain would win.
I spoke to all of them. To the people on my list. To their mothers, to their children, to their sisters and brothers. To their voicemails. I laughed with people. I cheered with them. I said prayers with them. I thanked them over and over for taking the time. They thanked me back.
I looked around the room. Hundreds of people were sitting at tables using their own phones. Everyone had a different style. I heard debates. I heard laughter. I heard cheers. I heard chants of “Obama”. People said whatever came to them as their fellow Americans picked up the other line. People from all over called people from all over. We were unified with one goal.
As we walked out, the woman at the table up front asked if we wanted to sign up for more. We looked confused. Surely, there’s no more time to do this? Actually, there are phone banks today. There are phone banks tomorrow. People will not stop until the word is out.
I know people are tired of phone calls. They are tired of hearing “Hi, I’m ____ and I’m a volunteer for Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change.” I know everyone feels like “I get it, I get it. I’m voting. I’m not an idiot.” I felt the same. But after hearing the confusion and setting so many people straight yesterday I knew the importance of the phone calls.
I know it’s no “flower in a rifle” or “staring down a tank in Teinamen Square”, but to a city girl who is generally more concerned about whether or not she should wear a smokey eye or a red lip, than who’s on “Meet The Press” this week, it felt really special and important. I felt like I was part of something. Like I was part of a movement.
I was part of Change.
(Incidentally, John Kerry was on Meet The Press this week. And he was great. He is firmly for Obama.
Also, if you’re not sure about your polling site, visit voteforchange.com. You don’t have to be registered on the site or even support Obama to get your info. Everyone should have the opportunity to vote.)
thoughts. feelings. pretty pictures. music. my happy place.