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.