Campaign season has finally come and gone, so politicos can rest for another two or three weeks before the next cycle begins. Trying to “get out the vote” takes multiple forms: phone banking, door-to-door candidate salesmanship, and (in select counties) rampant voting fraud.
As someone with sweaty palms and a naturally shifty disposition, campaigns rarely utilize me as a door knocker. I come off as a highly suspect Jehova’s Witness. One time a guy called the cops on me because he thought I was casing his house for a burglary, even though I was only putting up hanging advertisements on doorknobs for a congressional candidate.
Did I put them on all of his doorknobs, including his back door, the handle to his toolshed, and a sawed-off doorknob which I superglued to the side of his house?
Maybe. Had I broken into his home the previous Thursday by crawling through a cat door to eat all of his leftover birthday cake? Yes, yes I had. Still, my high school principal should have recognized that I had reformed and turned my abundant teenage energy towards democracy. I digress.
Most of my campaign experience has been relegated to phone banking. For the unfamiliar, phone banking is a system wherein volunteers go through a party membership list to try and interrupt old people at home during dinner. In my experience this can literally be any time of day, from 2:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Supper is forever hostage to an active republic.
The average voter is actually very polite, if suspicious. This is understandable. In modern society no one is supernaturally polite and perky unless they’re trying to sell you car insurance or about to run off with your purse.
When I volunteered for a congressman from a Mid-Atlantic state, I encountered all sorts of weirdly-spelled Polish surnames I couldn’t possibly pronounce. In instances like this you might feel compelled to argue with people on how to pronounce their names, but an “Ellis Island” approach can backfire if you’re not careful. The best course of action is to feign familiarity and drop their first name, like you’re poker buddies.
Ninety-percent of the time people on the other end are very polite. In the last congressional primary I phonebanked for, not everyone intended to vote for my guy, but nearly everyone responded to my script politely and kindly.
Once in college a guy nearly triggered an aneurism over the phone, overwhelmed with his anger at being bothered by ours and other campaigns calling him at home (to interrupt his supper). He announced he was going to vote for our principle opponent, because her campaign had not bothered him yet. It took two other campaign volunteers to restrain me from immediately calling back with a fake accent on behalf of her campaign.
There are definitely those oddballs who make the campaign trail that much more rewarding. If you’re soliciting donations for a political party, it’s considered too obtuse to simply phone people up and ask them for cash. So you list a few key issues and say, “Do you think there’s anything you could do to help?” While volunteering in high school, more than one person thought I was personally soliciting them to run for higher office.
As a phone banker my voice alone solicits weird responses. From an early age my parents saddled me with the terrible burden of phone etiquette. Coupled with my dulcet “telemarketer’s voice,” people often-times mistake me as an automated message system. On rare occasion I scare the hell out of some unsuspecting person who literally thinks a robot has achieved sentience.
One time a person actually argued with me about whether or not I would know I was a robot if my makers programmed me to think I was human. I laughed it off, then later sat in my bathtub that evening for an hour and a half going over Bladerunner in my head.
The best phone call I ever made was the presumably bored lady who decided to get her jollies that evening at my expense. I won’t repeat her fascinating dialogue, but my response amused other volunteers for the entire evening.