Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The First Day on the Forward Line

(Photo credit: Kevin Kopplin)

Ideally, I wanted this blog to be a snapshot into the experience of what it's like to collect signatures for the recall, but I'm already seeing some of the problems with this plan. Since I have an advanced degree in writing, I'm struggling with the need for substance and pithy observations. As an activist, I'm struggling with the serious need for sleep. This is going to be a long two months.

I collected only 47 signatures today, including my downstairs neighbor, a Republican who's been telling me for months now to bring my papers by as soon as I have them. I'm on track to collect 1,000 signatures so far, but I would feel better if I'd collected many more. I want to be optimistic and say that we will definitely recall Walker, but we really need to have more people actively out there gathering signatures if we're going to do this comfortably, especially with the coming undoubtedly-snowy months ahead.

Spirits were high and eyes wide at the pajama-less pajama party at recall HQ. Trinity ran the video recorder while I gleefully signed recall papers. After a false start, we camped out in front of Taco Bell before moving closer to Pick N Save, spending about an hour out in the cold wind. Despite only getting one signature and being drunkenly wooed by fourth-meal consumers, being out in the cold dark of night was exhilarating. When we got back to the car, Orion, patron saint of hunters, was parked approvingly low in the southern sky.

I almost made it back for bar close, but not quite. After I got home, though, there was no way I was going to sleep after being out in that bracing wind and riding high on the excitement of participatory government. Later, I gathered about half of my signatures on the public sidewalk near Polk Library, where a rally discussing the state budget was being held. Police were absolutely friendly when they stopped to make sure that I knew that I'd have to stay on the public sidewalk. Even Walker supporters were polite, something I expect will wear off as the recall progresses. A woman from Osseo signed, as well as a couple of men standing on the sidewalk en route back to my car. I was able to hand in my first two sheets before heading for home.

When I was nearly home, traffic was pouring out of a business nearby at shift change, so on a whim I stopped with my recall sash and clipboard for 20 or 30 minutes. Two cars pulled over to sign. Lots of other vehicles gave encouraging beeps and gestures, and if anyone flipped me off, I didn't see it. I planned to get to the rally at the sundial early and collected probably another 20 signatures there before heading over to the parent-teacher conferences at North High at 5:00.

Conferences were scheduled from five to eight, and I was alone, and I struggled with whether or not I should push myself to stay out the full three hours. While I want to challenge myself, I gave up after two hours and only one signature from a woman out walking her neighbor's dog. The only parent to talk to me was a conservative father who didn't volley his misinformed shot until he was several yards past me, and I was too numb--both fingers and brain--to bother with him. He was smug. He wasn't going to sign. The wasted time at North gave me much to think about, though, regarding better use of clothing and a burning need to find my headphones and possibly upload some books on CD to my iPod. Despite the fact that a Wisconsin flag whipping in the streetlit wind is pretty fantastic, clearly it didn't attract the right kind of attention for which I'd hoped. I'm debating whether I will go back to try to collect signatures again on Thursday. I'm leaning towards 'no' at present.

I've asked to be put on some doors as soon as possible. I'm comfortable with doors, and while the official word is that they want to focus on events because you get more signatures there, I'm positive that I could muster more than one signature in two hours on doors. Hopefully times without events will soon be filled with snowbird outreach before the annual southern migration.

Despite the fact that I've been all over town today, I didn't expect to be so exhausted when I got home. I canvassed for Jess King in all kinds of weather this summer, almost every day, walking or skating for hours, but I think I'm more tired than I ever was during her campaign. Tired or not, I'm due in the office tomorrow in the late morning, set to head back out on the forward line.

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