5 Days of Canvassing

So I haven’t been updating for a while, and that’s mostly because I’ve been looking for a job this summer. Yes, I know that I probably could have kept my job at the bakery, but I ended up really hating the place after not wanting to bake 7000 cookies a day, massage scones, or climb into the back of the -18oC deep freezer trying to find 50 pounds of frozen apple turnovers; the only nice thing was getting to practice frosting words on expired cookies after cleaning up after closing.

Anyways I still haven’t had much luck for 95% of the time. Application got in? Great! How did the interview go? Ehhh, it was okay. Did they call back? Nope. Or I got an email saying thanks for wasting 2 hours trying to get out of the house.

My family’s been using this to tell me off that nobody likes me and/or that I should try to follow others’ expectations instead of being myself. Wow, thanks, specific people. Considering that the other option is to sit at home and get yelled at, I might as well get paid to leave the house get yelled at, even if it’s at minimum wage.

So out of my entire job hunt so far, I’ve been unemployed for all but 5 days (or 6 if you count in one day that was a fluke). In those 5 days, I was out canvassing for LGBT+ rights. And while my family wasn’t very supportive for multiple reasons, it was (as of so far) best 5 days of this summer. Besides getting to stay a half hour’s car ride away from negative voices for over 8 hours, I got to do something that meant something to me yelling at people in the street. It’s not the easiest job on earth, but I learned a lot:

  1. You actually have to be passionate about what you’re canvassing for

I mentioned that I technically worked 6 days instead of 5, but the 6th day was only an observation/training day for a different canvassing position that I didn’t make the team for. At the time I applied to canvass for banning bee-interfering pesticides, but I really only signed up because it paid money. I might have been slightly interested about the effects of the pesticide due to being a chemistry major and taking a neuroanatomy class last semester, but that was about it.

After channeling my inner Sanja Vučić and sounding super enthusiastic to ace the interview and get an observation day, everything went downhill. Maybe it was that I was nervous from not memorizing the canvasser script well enough. Maybe it was that I didn’t feel that enthusiastic to go two by two, BOM style, knocking door to door and ask people for cash. Or maybe it was that I got assigned to a street where no one wanted to donate. Anyways, I wasn’t asked to return and had to wait two weeks in order to get my $25 compensation for spending 8 hours in the office and paying outrageously expensive parking fees.

Since I still needed cash I applied for a second place, the one that was fighting against LGBT+ discrimination. The interview started out the same way, but this time the enthusiasm felt more genuine. Considering that a) this affected a lot of my friends at uni, b) I’m still in the closet ace (#PurpleCakeyProblems), I was definitely more than just slightly interested. The canvassing director also noticed that I was a Eurovision fan, and considering that a lot of ESC fans are either allies or in the LGBT+ cloud, and that might have helped a little. Interview aced, I got my script, learned it well enough to freestyle it to interested people on the street, made enough donations, and officially joined the team.

  1. Yes there are people who will say no, and yes there are jerks on the street.

Unlike the first canvassing org, we didn’t walk door to door asking for cash. Instead we stood on street corners with our clipboards and uniforms, waiting for people to come to us, and that was a lot less nerve-wracking. On the other hand, our uniforms consisting of blue t-shirts weren’t exactly as flashy or as memorable as ESC stage outfits, so we needed to grab people’s attention. We would see a person, wave, and yell (without sounding threatening), “Hello! Are you interested in LGBT civil rights?”

We would wave to approximately 200-250 people a day, and most people refused; only about 30 people stopped to talk, and out of those people only 5-6 people would donate. At least those who didn’t want to talk acknowledged our presence, and I understood if they didn’t bring money with, didn’t have enough time, or weren’t old enough to vote. On the other hand, there were a few “more interesting” denials every day:

  • The person who was under an extreme time crunch: After I finished an abridged version of the spiel (something close to “Hi, I’m a paid fundraiser for [organization] fighting for LGBT+ rights, politicians around the country have introduced anti-LGBT+ bills despite marriage equality in all 50 states, we need money to fight these laws, can you please donate?”) they decide to donate, fill out half the paperwork, decide that it will take them too long, and then leaves me with a half-completed form offering to donate $15 and no money or card information.
  • The person who probably decided I would go to hell: The person saw me and slowed down enough to say, “May the Lord have mercy on your soul,” and then quickly walked away before I could even attempt to respond.
  • The 9-11 truther: The person explicitly said that they were a 9-11 truther and did not support the organization I campaigned for; according to them the organization’s intent was to cover up conspiracies. At least they smiled when I told them to have a nice day.
  • The beanie asshole: There was this troll who answered “F*** you” when I asked them if they were interested in the organization’s campaign, replied, “Oh, I won’t because you made it s***” when I told them to have a nice day. I could just shrug that off, but then they came back an hour later to blow smoke in my face while I’m coughing while their friend smelling of weed just laughed.
  • Every single person who said that “LGBT+ people have enough rights” already: Alright. So LGBT+ people don’t have enough rights? What about the 28 states where it’s legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation? What about states where it’s legal to use religion to discriminate? And what about all the shitstorms that have occurred because some state introduced a bathroom bill? No. we do not have enough rights, especially when some of our identities aren’t even recognized.
  • The person who disagreed with my spiel but then invited her friends to listen: I talked to this person who listened to the entire spiel. They then said, “I’m a conservative and I disagree with a lot of what you said, but it was a good speech. My friends are coming over and they might be interested in what your organization.” The first person’s friends were interested, and even though they didn’t donate, it was great that I got to talk to 4 people at that location instead of just 1 person.
  • The TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) lawyer: There was a self-declared TERF lawyer who decided to harass canvassers because they did not agree with part of the organization’s stand on transgender issues. They simply walked away after the field manager told them to leave, but then they found the other team of canvassers to harass. Eugh.

But for every asshole, there was at least one person who made things better. Maybe they donated. Or maybe they didn’t know what was going on in the news and realized they wanted to help. Or maybe they or their family/friends would be directly affected by the organization’s help.  For example, there was one person who was knew almost all the details of the spiel because the laws that the organization was fighting against affected them directly: Previously fired for not being straight? Check. Harassed at a bathroom for not passing as the “right” gender? Check. They wanted to help but couldn’t do so through donating, so they signed up to canvass. I felt really bad for not being able to help directly, but at the same time it felt like I was actually doing something while working for the organization instead of feeling like a robot in the bakery.

So how did the job go overall?

  • Pay: Minimum wage with 30% commissions if we got extra donations
  • Distance: Half an hour’s drive away from the family
  • Stuff learned: A lot. I got to talk to a bunch of people, listen to their stories, improve my interpersonal communication, and speak about my interests more fluently.
  • Related to what’s going on at uni: Nope, unless you count what happens at the LGBT+ org.

If things went my way, I would be canvassing the entire summer. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. My family didn’t approve of me working there for too long, because the job didn’t contribute to my major at work, I wouldn’t learn anything (despite that not being true), I would be there too long and forget why I was even canvassing (also not true), and because parking was ridiculously expensive given that it was minimum wage (okay that might be a problem). So they made me quit and now I’m looking for another job, hopefully with free parking. But I’m still thankful for those 5 days yelling at people on the streets, and for the org’s canvassing director for giving me a chance.


One comment on “5 Days of Canvassing

  1. thatssojacob says:

    Penny! I got your letter today, and just finished reading it 🙂 will reply very soon! So excited!

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