Tuesday, October 28, 2008

sans voce

So Sunday, even though I had a sort throat, I put in about an hour and a half at an Obama phone bank, drumming up the vote in Missouri.

 Of course the next day I had no voice! When I tried to talk I sounded a little like Barry White and a little like air leaking out of a balloon. Kinda hurt, too. So phone banking was maybe not my most bestest decision.

 On the other hand, if Obama takes the Show Me State, then maybe I did a little good in this world.

This year was my first time making those sorts of calls. I tried doing it once from home, using the campaign's on-line tool for tracking and reporting the calls you make. But without anyone to offer direction, it was too easy to feel like a shmuck. It sort of plays on all my insecurities -- talking to strangers, asking people for stuff, sales of any kind. The fact that I was doing it at all says a lot about how worried I am for the country. But even with that motivation, I was good for just a couple hours of calling on my own. I did invent a new acronym, however: WOMSS, which stands for Way Outside My Skill Set.

Sunday was at a house near here, and it was definitely easier with someone kind of riding herd over all of us (the kid looked to be about eighteen -- but he had the information I needed to do the job right, so I was cool with that).

They had one of those systems that automatically dials voters for you. You hear a beep and then you start reading from a script that's like one of those old Choose Your Own Adventure kids books. After you introduce yourself, you find out if they're planning on voting for Obama. if yes, then you remind them to take ID to the polls (that's the law in Missouri)and ask if they're willing to volunteer for the campaign. If no (usually) then you thank them and end the call. if yes, then you give them some more information.

There's a similar, more complex script for undecided voters. And if you get a McCain voter you push the star key which releases the 10,000 volt charge down the telephone wires (kidding!)(jeepers, everyone's so tense this year...)

So, anyway, I did that till my voice gave out.

And after watching some other folks robot-reading their way through the campaign-approved script, too nervous to deviate even a little (we were told we could and should improvise), I've concluded that I'm right in the middle in terms of doing this. I'm not the guy who can reel in the fence-sitters, but I can at least to talk to someone on the phone in a normal, conversational way. 

Definitely a good and interesting thing to do -- don't know if I'll be doing it a whole lot more, however. Certainly not with this voice.


At 12/05/2008 8:14 AM, Blogger Tess said...

I did this too, and felt exactly the same way -- by turns WOMSS and feeling slightly proud of my ability to sound relaxed with people on the phone.

My favorite moment was when I got a woman who (according to the software) was 82 years old. I asked her "How are you today?" and she said "OLD." Just about fell out of my chair. She was great to talk with, though. Great sense of humor that reminded me of my grandma.

Like a lot of the middle-aged and older folks I talked with, she did not want to tell me anything about her vote. Many people feel sensitive about the sacred idea of the secret ballot, and some were downright offended that I asked whether or not they had voted for the Obama/Biden ticket. Can't say as I blame them, although when I got The Call myself, I was happy to say I'd voted for That One.


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