Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't Dream It's Over

Hey now, hey now
Dont dream its over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they wont win
-- Crowded House

It really scares the hell out of me to talk to strangers. Even moreso to do it over the phone where I can't read their facial expressions. To do it repeatedly is even more terrifying. The times I've done that in the past, people were calling me, because they wanted to (like when I was answering phones for KTEH during pledge drives). Calling someone else who isn't expecting me... that's sheer and abject horror.

Yet I feel very strongly that getting people to vote No on Prop 8 is important enough that I can step outside my comfort zone. Imagine if, prior to the Revolutionary War, the colonists had said, "well, fighting the British sounds good, but I don't want to get mud on my shoes." So I went and did it.

Tonight I went to the No on 8 HQ in downtown San Jose, stepped WAAAAAAY outside my comfort zone and talked to strangers. You may have heard that the Pro-discrimination forces of darkness are recruiting people in Utah and Nevada to make calls on their behalf. So it's important that we match or exceed their efforts.

And yeah, I was a little freaked out at first. But honestly, it's not that bad, and you start to get used to it pretty quickly. If you have your own cell phone with a lot of minutes, you can use that, which is nice if you have a good bluetooth headset. (And if you use the bluetooth headset, and have choices of ear pieces, use the one that blocks out the most outside sound... learned that the hard way.)

You sit at a computer, which calls potentially undecided voters and connects them to you once they answer. Some of the time you get an answering machine, and then you just click "next call." Some of the time you get the wrong number, and then you click "wrong number" and "next call." And then sometimes, you get the person you're supposed to, and they're there.

Then you read from a script. In fact, they want you to stick strictly to the script. This is a very good thing, because it keeps you from getting into upsetting conversations or debates with anti-gay people, and it keeps you on-topic with pro-freedom people so you can help get their votes squared away and get on to the next call. The goal is to reach as many undecided voters as possible.

This also means you don't have to wing it, which is great for people like me who aren't particularly verbally articulate (or at least people who feel awkward when put on the spot). And if you talk to someone who is a horrible asshole, all you have to do is say "thank you for your time, goodbye" and hang up. You don't have to engage those people at all.

You can control the pace of your calls to some degree too. You can get a breather before you click "next call" if you need to. You can step way for some air if you need that. I decided to do calls for an hour, then take a 5 minute break. Then I made some more calls, then took a break and put my massage skills to use working on the shoulders of other volunteers. Then I made some more calls. The key point here is that yes, they need you to make as many calls as you can, but if you aren't accustomed to being on the phone for 2 hours at a time, you can get a breather in.

All of these things combined mean it's a far less freaky and terrifying experience than you might think.

As I left, I got messages sent to me from the universe by way of my satellite radio. First it was Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2, then Don't Dream it's Over by Crowded House, followed by two different songs called Change (Tears for Fears and Candlebox) on two different stations at the same time. Clearly, God wants Prop 8 to fail, and approves of my efforts in phone banking.

I'll be back, hopefully with a massage chair.

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Well, you encouraged me to do it... Somebody stole my No On 8 sign this afternoon. When I picked up a replacement I did phone calls for 60 minutes. I'll be back.
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