Moving On

Somewhere in the dim past, I gave money to, or signed one of its petitions, or maybe did some phone-banking in 2004. However it happened, they called me a week or so ago to get me to volunteer to make phone calls this week. I agreed, but something came up the first night I was supposed to go, so I didn’t show. They called again. Last night, I went in for the first of several evenings of calling–contacting people like me who have somewhere along the line said yes to something MoveOn asked them to do and who are now being asked to call voters in key congressional races.

After an orientation about the calling process and the script we were to use, I started dialing. My targets were folks in the 831 area code–Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, mostly. The goal was to get people to commit to six hours of phone work in the last five days of the campaign, Friday through election day. Since we were calling MoveOn people, the task seemed a little easier at the outset than cold-calling people on voter registration rolls who may or (more likely) may not want any part of your get-out-and-vote rap. I could hear fellow volunteers happily announcing (by ringing desk bells) that they were getting commitment after commitment. A lot of people want to have a sense they’re doing something to effect some change, any change.

In two hours or so, I made 34 calls. About half went to answering machines. About half a dozen were wrong numbers or fax lines or otherwise “bad.” The rest–let’s say a dozen–picked up. Three said don’t call here again. About four said call back because there are trick-or-treaters at the door. Another four said, gee, we’d like to help, but we can’t for one reason or another. That leaves one person.

She began by telling me she’d fallen asleep at the computer while trying to figure out the MoveOn calling system and thought she’d better not try any more calling. Really? I asked. Why? “Because I’m old and tired,” she said. “Hey, join the crowd,” I told her. “The only thing that’s keeping me going is being in a room full of people doing the same thing.” She listened, and after a little cajoling committed to attending “phone parties” on Saturday and Sunday.

That’s my success story. It’s enough to keep me going back for more.

Some snippets from other people I talked to:

“I can’t make long-distance calls because I’m on a plan that only allows me two hours of long-distance calls a month.”

“I don’t have any time man–I’m looking for work.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t–I have a mother who’s in the middle of dying.”

“I’m just on my way out the door to see David Sedaris. Call back tomorrow.”

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