Wednesday, September 19:
This week men of several varieties fill my memory, but of them, The Yellow Speedo Man figures, er, prominently.
To back up: we’ve got only till October 9th here in Florida to register or re-register voters, and as everybody probably knows, the entire process was dramatically slowed this summer by legislation that made it nearly impossible to meet the state’s requirements.
Those impediments, like those in other states were designed by the GOP to keep Democrats away from the polls. Now, most of them have been lifted, but obviously, we’ve got to work double-time to catch up.
So voter registration is occupying my time—doing it, scheduling it, finding places to do it (which is humorous given my total ignorance of this area. I sit with maps and map-books, and google every address…argh!) and finding people to fill those slots.
A week ago, another ‘fellow’ and I went out to an apartment complex. There we were, two gray-haired women with clipboards, knocking on doors and asking people if their registration was up to date. We are non-partisan, registering anybody and everybody (though of course hoping…) It was hot and muggy (or does that go without saying?) providing a sort of steam-room stair-master exercise session as we knocked doors upstairs and down.
Everybody with whom we spoke was polite, and many, as always, thanked us for doing this. And then a man in a yellow Speedo bathing suit appeared on the sidewalk, not far from us and proceeded to bellow: ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU’RE SOLICITING! YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SOLICIT!”
We gray-haired dangerous ladies reminded him we were not soliciting, not selling anything, that what we were doing was legal, a civic--
There he stood, in that horrid bathing suit, shouting: “YOU’RE INVADING MY @#$!!!! PRIVACY!”
It is my personal conviction that a man in a yellow speedo is not one to talk about invading anybody’s privacy. What about mine? His speedo most assuredly provided T.M.I. and I wished I could say so…
Instead, we decided to ignore him and continue on, but then he turned and truly threatened us and we left the place laughing about the twerp and his “privacy.”
Whenever I encounter somebody who is rude about voter registration attempts (and I should say it’s rare, but it happes), I know they are part of the populace who wanted those restrictions to stay in place, so no wonder they’re perpetually angry.
The opposite sort of man who figured in my life this week was President Obama, who took time out, in a day when the tragedy in Libya dominated the news and his attention, to do a low-key closed video computer conversation with the Organizing for America fellows to say thanks for the work. He talked about listening to people, hearing what they are trying to say. The man is a mensch.
Things continue to spin and chug and any other energy-laden word you can think of. I have had moments this past week when I am living the nightmare where you’re given a final to take and you realize you never took the course!
So I often feel a little like a hamster must on his wheel—except that I know there’s a goal in sight and that whir is the sound of moving toward it. Every day the sign changes in the office, how many days left to the election. I don’t know what analogy to use to convey the sense of urgency—a tied championship game with the clock ticking down those last few seconds?
I am, however, repeatedly struck by how didfferent this campaign’s operation feels from the other side’s. Ours is completely about people, the incredible numbers (growing) of volunteers reaching out to still more individuals, registering them one by one, talking with them one by one (and listening!) The other side’s impersonal tsunami of money drowns all of us with ads. Robots who can’t listen, can’t understand what the person on the other side wants or worries about, make their phone calls. Humans make ours. And we listen to the person on the other end. To me, it’s the difference in the two sides’ political philosophy reduced to a micro-scale.
I continue to be geographically challenged. I feel elation when I realize I actually know where a street is, but more often, I am crossing four lanes of traffic to get to where I can make a U-turn into the other direction. (Who designed these streets? Who requires U-turns on 6-lane divided roads if you actually missed your target? And why aren’t addresses on these interminable long, long “blocks”? To whom may I complain???)
And speaking of geography: Paul Ryan was here this week. (I assume yellow speedo was in the audience.) He spoke to his crowd about how all-important Pinellas County is—and the I-4 Corridor (I must look that up on my map collection. I have no idea what it is—another of those damnable U-turn highways?)--except that it’s vital to taking the state. He’s right. It is all-important—and his words got me fired up to work even harder. That I-4 Corridor, whatever it is, is ours, dude!
I am constantly amazed by this new life. Could there be more of a change from a silent, contemplative writing life? I thought writing deadlines were tough—these daily clock-ticking, time-eroding deadlines put the leisurely publishing deadlines to shame. But after 17 straight days of work, I yearned for a break and Monday, for the first real time since I got here, I took the day off, and aside from the joys of doing laundry, I went for a walk on the beach with the lovely lady with whom I’m staying. Beach! Florida! Not the I-4 corridor or the tense polling or the nail-biting worry about who will vote how. Florida! White powdery sand and for once—blue, blue sky and no storm. (Of course, it is raining as I write this, but Monday was beautiful.) A lovely time to clear the mind.
It almost makes the mosquito bites I’m now scratching worthwhile.
And now…back to work. 48 days to go.