Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's nice to go out on a high note.

As of 8:00 p.m. election evening, the moment the California polls closed, I once again became unemployed.

Over the past three and a half weeks, I have gained about $1,000, a water bottle, tote bag, and t-shirt (I won something in each of the office raffles) each proclaiming me to be allied with one union or another, none of which I actually am, three $25 gift certificates for working eight-hour shifts, and a fair chunk of experience in dealing with disgruntled people over the phone.

I have lost one purple Swarovski drop earring, and some naivete about the political process -- not that I was all that naive before.

I worked with some wonderful human beings, but I once again totally failed to exchange basic information such as phone numbers or email addresses.  I did grab the email address of one of the supervisors, who promised us all references.  I also made a point of going to all the supervisors and thanking them for creating such a wonderful workplace:  given the type of work, it could have been horrible, and it was anything but.

Tuesday was by the far the best day I worked: no salesmanship, no explaining exactly how important raising the minimum wage in San Jose or the sales tax in Santa Clara County was, or why Jimmy Nguyen would make such a good District 8 Councilman.  All I did was call registered voters and remind them how important it is that they vote.  I could be happy and enthusiastic, and most often I had people thanking me for calling. I had more than one person tell me how important what I was doing was.

Given my deep conviction about the vital importance of electoral process, this was perfect.  As I told one of my supervisors an hour in, I was having fun.

One man awkwardly explained he was in fact in the polling booth as I called.  I forbore reminding him that he wasn't supposed to have cell phones in there.  Another women defiantly said "I voted for Romney," and was surprised and sheepish when I gently replied, "I don't care who you voted for, ma'am, only that you voted."  I had more than one person, recognizing the phone number as being that from which they had received numerous political calls over the past month, state before I had a chance to say anything "I voted already." My favorite was a woman who explained that her son -- the person I was calling for -- had voted already, and went down the line listing the propositions and how she had told him to vote.  We were both laughing by the end of the conversation.

I laughed a lot, and smiled, and said "wonderful!" and "have a great evening!" and meant every word of it. One of the other staffers, a woman who had done this for many more weeks than I had, complimented me on my rap, and told me how genuine and pleasant I was.  I was flattered, and more than that, relieved. Being a torch-bearer for representative democracy is a role I take very seriously.

Like the census job in 2010, I felt that what I did mattered.  Of the five campaigns I worked on, three and a half were successful.  (One of the campaigns was for two candidates for city council, one of whom was elected, while the other was not.)  I helped make sure that education can be adequately funded in California, and that people living on the edge in San Jose can make something closer to a living wage.

Now the election, and my stint as a phone banker, are over. I think that I, and all the people who sat next me on the phones and computers, did a good -- and important -- job.

I'm sad to see them go, but happy things turned out so well in the end.


  1. Hi Pat,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and your help in making this a successful campaign! Would you allow me to re-post your piece on the South Bay Labor Council blog at
    We'd love to have you write for us as well!
    Thanks again.
    Stacey Hendler Ross, Communications Director, SBLC

    1. Hi, Stacey. Please feel free to re-post or re-link if you want to. I'd love to talk to you about writing more for you. Pat.