Monday, November 06, 2006

Of Mansions, Phonebanking and Large Dogs

Several weeks ago, I had added my name to the on line listing of volunteers for the John Hall congressional campaign.  (NY19)  A couple of days ago I received a call about phonebanking during the 3 days just prior to election day.  This would be my first such experience.  I asked for Saturday morning which fortunately was still available.  This would allow me to attend the boran2 boy's soccer game later that day.


The day finally came. I drove along the wooded backroads that were indicated on the downloaded map.  With some difficulty, I found the private road that led to what turned out to be an early 19th century mansion, situated on a hill above a large lake. After locating a place to park, I attempted to find the main entrance.  After a brief glimpse around, I walked to what appeared to be the front door.  I heard the unmistakable sound of very loud barking.  Greeting me at the glass-paned door were two very large dogs.  Well, small ponies might be more appropriate.  A large dalmation and oversized yellow lab inspected me.  Apparently I passed muster and was allowed into the interior of the building.


I already knew that I would be changing my clothes when I got home as madame boran is highly allergic to dogs.  Never having spent much time around dogs (my mother feared dogs, cats and pretty much anything with 4 legs), I'm never sure exactly how to respond when they come over to me.  One of the two, the yellow lab, seated himself close to me.  It became readily apparent what he really wanted.  So I began to scratch his head.  I had gained a new friend but when I tried to stop he would prod my hand to begin once again.  Yep, when I got home, I'd have to wash my hands thoroughly.


I had arrived just before the appointed time for my two hour shift.   Unfortunately, all the phone lists and scripts had yet to arrive as well as the other callers.  Only the individual in charge was present.  We sat and chatted for another 20 minutes or so before anyone else arrived.  Finally the others arrived and the paperwork as well.


The supervising individual instructed us how we should proceed.  We were off.  Well, maybe not.


The selection of phones was, umm, unusual.  This particular mansion was decorated in that country, New York Times, haphazard style.  And that included the phones.  The equipment included a rotary phone circa 1950 (yikes!), a well used cordless model with a nonfunctiong number "1" and a phone far off in the mansion's interior in a utility room.  Another individual brought an uncharged cellphone that was soon out of power.  Her charger was missing in action.  She was given the cellphone of our fearless supervisor, which was soon out of power as well.  (The phone, not the supervisor.)  Thankfully, our supervisor had his charger.


I was assigned the cordless model.  Immediately, I marked the phone numbers that included the digit "1" for later attention when fully functional telephonic equipment would be available.  


I began my phonebanking.  I made a number of calls but this being a saturday morning, most people were apparently out.  Many of my calls resulted in messages being left.  Then the yellow lab returned.  I was calling all the numbers that did not include the digit "1" with one hand and  scratching the dog's large head with the other.  How does one tell a large dog to take a hike?  After a while I stopped and he seemed content, at least for the time being.


I had the following observations about my shift:


One of my fellow phonebankers, the one using the rotary phone, had a brief exchange with me in between our calls. It turns out that she is a neighbor of mine and a veteran of a number of earlier political campaigns. She was roughly my age and has a daughter a few years older than the boran2 boy.


She spoke about her hopes for Tuesday but suprised me with her next statement. She indicated that she would leave the country if things got much worse. Now, I would be lying if I said that the thought of leaving for better circumstances elsewhere never crossed my mind. It has, and more than once. But it was the timing (during phonebanking) and manner of her statement that struck and saddened me a bit. It seemed like her decision was imminent, something that would happen very soon. I didn't question her, the look on her face said it all.


The other thing that struck me was the manner of her calls. She stated to her call recipients that she was sorry to bother them with political calls. My own calls followed the script, I simply reminded listeners about the close race that our candidate faced and the need for all to come out and vote. I did not feel the need to apologize for these reminders, especially at this time of upheaval.


I did make 40 to 50 calls during my shift despite the obstacles.  Only 2 had negative results.  It's certainly a thing worth doing and I would do it again without hesitation.


On Tuesday, I'm hoping to take the boran2 boy and join the candidate for part of his walk through a nearby residential complex.

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