Although I am presently “politically active” and have been more so in my past, there are two activities that take place during campaigns that I will do whatever it takes to avoid taking part in.
Even though it is a very necessary and effective action, I do not like to canvass.
The canvassers are those people who approach the houses of those who are registered to the party that the candidate they are supporting also belongs to,assuming that as they are in the same party the reception will be friendly and just a matter of reminding the resident to vote. This is generally the case, especially as an attempt is made not to intrude at times when people would most likely be busy with other things like dinner. Unfortunately there are those unpleasant people who are angry about something and need someone to vent on.
Having been a somewhat controversial public figure a few years ago, I have had my fair share of lectures and rants directed at me in public, so I am not a fan of going up to someone’s house to get yelled at. That is one reason the Jehovah's Witnesses have had a bear of a time converting me.
The other activity I avoid is phone banking.
I had my time of calling fellow union members on political and union issues, and not liking someone calling me at the most inconvenient time, and having sold vinyl siding over the phone as a summer job once, I do not like doing that. In the case of the siding, besides interrupting people’s days to get them to buy a product that never crossed their minds before I called, I was usually condemned by rural Oklahoma folk who assumed with my New England accent that I was some kind of “Ferner” and was told too many times to go back to my own country, or that any good American, like the person on the other end of the phone line, would be betraying their country if they bought vinyl siding from a foreign country that used “American” in their name.
I have had more relatives pass away during phone bank season than I actually ever had relatives. I have had more grandparents pass away than there are old folks at Shady Pines.
The one activity I have no problem with, though, is the “Stand Out”. These are those people you see on the side of the road during elections, especially close to the actual election day, who hold up the signs of various candidates and wave at you as you drive by.
Having done this a number of times, I have observed some consistent behaviors of those in the cars that pass.
First there are those who simply drive by. Obviously they have some place to get to and are interested only in that. I would bet, if asked, they would say they saw no one standing at the sides of any road carrying any sign of any sort.
Quite a few people drive by, attempting to speed up so as not to be tempted to make eye contact, maybe not wanting to be recognized then or later. You can practically see them physically wishing for invisibility.
The most uncomfortable people are those who, because of some stoppage in the flow of traffic, end up stopped just in front of someone holding a sign and try desperately not to even glance over to the side of the road like they are stuck at an intersection avoiding eye contact with the homeless guy holding the sign so they can justify in their conscience why they did not roll down the window and hand the guy a quarter.
The physical struggle and their general discomfort are palpable. It makes the sign holder uncomfortable, as nothing in front of them can be so fascinating that they hope the person with the sign understands they just cannot look away from it. Obviously they are hoping to live by the theory that not seeing equals not being seen.
Then there are those who feel strongly one way or another about a candidate and let you know their choice by a simple thumbs up, or thumbs down. These people occasionally smile or scowl, but usually in an obviously good natured way.
The people I do not understand at all, though, are those who roll down their window, winter or summer, to yell a series of expletives at those standing with the signs. More often than not when using the words “bastard”, or questioning one’s lineage, they throw out the “F-Bomb” with relish. What confuses me is that when they yell their expletives they do not refer to the candidate by beginning their yelling with “He (or she) is a….”, but instead begin with “You’re a……” as if passing judgment on the poor schlepp who just happens to be holding the wrong candidate’s sign. I have seen a lot of misdirected anger in this. And, the anger can be intense.
The sign holder most likely has never met the candidate, or if they have, it was as a member of a crowd where one person was like another. They may support the candidate, but they are not the candidate.
On election day my "Visibility" spot was on the corner of Crowell and Route 134. I unfolded my lawn chair, put my cup of coffee in the arm rest holder, took out my cell phone so I could check Facebook if things got boring, then sat down with my Markey sign in hand. There I sat for two hours, waving and smiling at the cars that passed, and joking with the people in the cars that had their windows down.
Most people waved and did the thumbs up or down. There were the occasional curses, but, really?
The most incongruous passer-by was the woman in the fancy convertible, who looked like a Cape Cod vacation for her equaled a week of hitting every Christmas Tree Shoppe she could find. As she turned off Crowell north on 134, she slowed down enough to yell that I was a “F**king son of a bitch” before speeding up to continue on her way. Apparently she had some strong, yet misplaced disapproval of my preferred candidate and thought it was a highly negative reflection on who I was. Or maybe, I had done something wrong to her the last time I was in a Christmas Tree Shoppe that I just do not remember.
Tourists with out of state plates generally looked at me and the town's folding sign designating June 25 as a state election day as if there was something locally quaint going on, but weren’t fast enough to get out the camera to take a picture of the quaint local before the light changed and they had to drive off.
I was trying to read how people might have voted based on the extremely unscientific observation of what type of car they drove. Hey, I was sitting at a major intersection with only my cell phone, my coffee, and my thoughts, so I needed to figure out something to do. But, obviously, car types revealed nothing in most cases.
There was one observation that I was not looking for, but that slowly revealed itself.
Of the various makes, models, and years of cars, I began to notice that the majority of thumbs up came from moderately priced cars in decent condition, while the thumbs down and expletives came from two contrasting types of cars.
On one end, I got quite a few negatives from cars and pick-up trucks that seemed to be held together by a lot of duct tape and hard work. Parts shimmied and shook as the cars either went straight by or took the corner. Judging from the occupants, and this was only an instant assessment, these were the cars they could afford.
On the other end were the expensive cars, most of them foreign, and most that many people I know could dream of owning, but could not afford.
What struck me was that the members of both these car groups were for the same candidate, and were not reluctant to make that known. They were also in favor of the party that was pro-business, and pro-corporation, and which refused to raise the taxes of the 1% for any reason while being anything but hesitant to cut the social safety nets that many of the people on the Cape rely on as retirees or the unemployed in the off season. So you had the people in the poorly conditioned cars supporting those who were also favored by the people in the expensive cars as if they were totally unaware that they too could have better cars if they would stop shooting themselves in the foot by supporting the policies and politicians that the people in the expensive cars were glad they had been convinced to support so that they could have those expensive cars.
If I had had it in my power, I would have loved to get these two disparate groups together in the parking lot to ask the poorer ones if they noticed anything. But I was also afraid that even as they noticed the irony, they would quote the party lines that somehow would justify why they were deprived while the others thrived.
Totally unscientific study, but it did help to pass the time.