I showed up for Wednesday Activist night and was immediately forced to face one of my long standing fears: calling strangers. I have always had a phone phobia, even when calling relatives, but especially strangers. I had once tried to telemarket cell phones, but my proposed 8 hour shift turned into 2 hours when I realized a) I do not like to cold call people out of the phone book and b) I don't know anything about cell phones! It was a bad combination and I left somehow fearing phones more so than before. But this was something I care about and know about and it wasn't cold calling, it was a list of people who signed up with the NARAL website. That was a good start and after butchering the first couple of phones calls, being flustered by such simple questions as "what's this march for?" "what does NARAL stand for?" and "how did you get my name?," I finally got a rhythm going and I felt empowered and almost obligated to call these people, and no matter how rude they were or inconvenienced they seemed, I knew I was doing something important and after a polite goodbye, I would be eager to call the next person, who could very possibly be as totally stoked about the March as I am. It felt good. And they fed us pizza, that felt good, too, after the week I spent on the Special K cereal diet. But I do blame NARAL for not losing 6 pounds in two weeks like the cereal box told me I would, but I will forgive them and continue to phone bank like champ whenever they need me.
I have gotten to go to events I never would have even known about, like when Dean endorsed Kerry at GW...I had never been in the same pavilion as two democratic presidential nominees! Call me a big cheeseball again, but I almost cried during one of the speeches (but this must be taken in the context that peanut butter commercials and Adam Sandler movies make me cry). Not to mention that the people waiting in line were enthusiastically signing up for the march which made the day so very fulfilling. I thought phonebanking was daunting, so flyering took it to a whole other level. Its one thing to flyer a big liberal leaning event like this Kerry speech or the AFL-CIO Anti-Bush rally, but going up to complete strangers in an apolitical setting like a market or a subway stop, that is a big departure from my comfort zone. Especially, when I realize that I am still thinking in North Texas mode...If I went up to strangers at the DART-rail in Dallas, talking openly about reproductive rights issues, I would not expect an open-armed greeting, I might even expect some harassment and maybe even threats! But things are a little different here, and the few people who expressed an anti-choice opinion have always been nothing but polite and just shifted away quickly. After a few minutes of people rushing furiously away from you with their heads focused squarely on the ground, refusing to even look at the lovely pro-choice sticker you offered them or the informative flyer that mocks the smirking men signing away women's freedoms as though it is just another day on the job (because apparently their job description has changed from upholding the Constitution to taking away whatever rights a woman has over her own body and her own privacy), someone is receptive. Maybe they have heard about the march but just need a reminder on the date and a pen to sign up with or maybe they have never heard about the march before and although they are not prepared to sign up right away, they will take their flyer, take to the Internet and educate themselves...after just a few seconds of reading about the full throttle attack on reproductive freedoms, they will, no doubt, be lacing up their marching shoes! Even the people who show no interest and no pause when taking the sticker, at least they took the sticker! When cleaning out their purse or coat pockets later, even if they throw it away, they will have read "pro-choice" and will probably think about it: Are they pro-choice? Are they busy Sunday, April, 25? Are they tired of the government trying to make private health decisions for women? Hopefully, the answers they come to are yes, no, yes and we'll see them there! Regardless, I did my job trying to educate and motivate the pro-choice majority and that makes me feel good....even without the pizza.
NARAL Action Center Volunteer