THE PENCOPAL PROJECT
2004-09-20 - 3:00 p.m.
I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE
Saturday afternoon a bunch of Kerry supporters, myself included, braved the Ivan-related downpour to canvass the suburbs of swing state Pennsylvania. It was fucking cold and fucking rainy, but there was a fire inside all of us, the burning desire to do anything we could to help defeat the current administration (sounds so self-serving and pompous, yet so true).
I walked in at noon, and to my dismay everyone had brought a friend. Everyone except Pencopal. I thought, maybe I can sit next to this old lady, nope, she’s got a friend. Maybe I’ll chat up this odd looking teenager, nope, he’s with two people. Maybe I can stuff envelopes while we wait for our assignments, nope, they have enough people. Guess I’ll sit here and drink my coffee, feeling like a 12-year-old outcast with geeky clothes and food in her braces. Yes, I did sit there and feel sorry for myself for a good three minutes. Then I snapped out of it and called up a friend and complained about all the people who claim to care about the outcome of the election, but aren't being willing to get active. It’s all about transferring the shame, baby.
I overheard someone say they needed another person. I ended up working with a nice retired couple, I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Connecticut. There was a contingent of volunteers from their state, who drove down on Friday night to help canvass all weekend. Now that’s dedication. Everything was going well until one woman sidled up to us.
“Yeah, we were canvassing all day yesterday,” she said to Mrs. Connecticut and I.
“Wow, that’s great,” I replied.
“We handed out lots of literature and generally got people fired up,” The Sidler continued.
Mrs. Connecticut nodded her head in support.
“We spent much of the day yesterday in an [voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper] African American neighborhood.”
She said this to Mrs. Connecticut, but afterward she looked at me and waited for a reply. I murmured something indecipherable and walked away. Now, The Sidler had stringy, dirty blond hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in two weeks. She was wearing a striking outfit composed of black rubber galoshes, blue Hawaiian print pants, a stained pink cardigan, and a bright yellow coat. She looked like she’d hooked up her doublewide to the back of her pickup and drove herself here, but when I first saw her, reminded myself not to be judgmental. We were all there for the same purpose. This same bitch felt the need to tell me she’d canvassed a black neighborhood. What do you want, a fucking medal? I’m the only black person in this room, where’s my motherfucking medal? We’re going to be canvassing a mostly wealthy, Caucasian neighborhood where 2 out of 3 people will act like they’ve never seen a black person before. Where’s my fucking award for that? That’s just the way it is, right, so I don’t get one. Why the fuck should you?
Anyway, she turned out to be a turd. She kept interrupting the volunteer coordinator, chiming in with her own two cents and generally acting like a know-it-all asshole.
But she was the exception, not the rule. Everyone else was very nice, and Mr. and Mrs. Connecticut were kind and talkative during the five and a half hours we spent together. I thought it was amazing that they’d drive such a distance to stay in a hotel and volunteer. They were former Dean supporters, and though disappointed that he’d had to drop out of the race, they’d transferred their allegiance to Kerry and were doing whatever they could. The only downer was when we walked up to houses with three cars in the driveway and the door open, but no one answered. I wanted to yell, "Come out come out wherever you are. I know you're in there."