Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't Count Your Conspirators Before They Crack Their Windows

On Friday night, I had a very strange encounter with a gentleman who asked to sign my petition. It was around 7:00 pm in front of the Walgreens on Koehler. A blue station wagon pulled up behind me and a man asked to sign my petition. When I patted my ironing board and indicated for him to come up and join me on the sidewalk, he asked me to bring the petition to him. Since the Christmas tree seller who was renting the corner of the parking lot where the man was parked had seemed supportive, I decided to go ahead and take the petition to him.

As he was filling out his address, he said to me, "You're probably going to have a whole bunch of people coming to sign, but you're not going to like where they're coming from." At this point, my warning flags were replaced with flashing lights and sirens. "Oh?" I asked politely. "There's a whole bunch of Republicans on Facebook who've decided we're going to sign to help you finish this and just get it over with." I had an overwhelming urge to snatch the clipboard back from his hands before he could finish signing, but instead I told him that he shouldn't be signing my petition unless he wanted to recall Walker. He told me that he supported Walker, but that he and his fellow Facebook group members wanted to recall him in order to prove in a year that a Democrat couldn't do any better and then they'd recall the new governor. He told me that someone had posted my location in the Facebook group and that I should expect a bunch more to show up.

All in all, he understood what he was signing, though I didn't agree with why he was signing it. I didn't have a reason to not allow him to finish, but I didn't feel comfortable with this at all. He told me that Walker was doing what the people wanted, and that putting a Democrat in power would prove that when the new governor ultimately failed. He made it sound like he fully supported Walker but would recall him, vote against him to elect someone new, then recall the next governor. He was a mild-mannered man who looked to be in his 40s, a recently-returned Iraq vet who was proud of his certification as a storm chaser.

As we exchanged some polite but baffled (on my part, anyway) banter on Walker and his policies, I tried to size up this man and his motives. I felt like there was a large chunk of the conversation that was missing at times, like he was operating out of knowledge that he assumed was Gospel fact of which I would also be aware. He was armed with some pro-Walker talking points, some of which I was able to address, some of which were supported with things I'd never heard before (something about Milwaukee schools doing better because they were hiring two special education teachers and didn't need any other teachers). When he praised Walker's balancing the budget, he said that he knew that Doyle hadn't balanced the budget because so-and-so had a sign in his yard that said he hadn't. When I mentioned the Balanced Budget Act, he'd never heard of it.

I try not to make assumptions about people, but I found myself trying to explain why this man was in the parking lot, signing my petition. He talked about being a vet, and he seemed proud to have served his country. He talked about being a storm chaser, and he focused on the role of the storm chaser in providing 15 minutes of warning rather than just 5 minutes and how that saves lives. He was very proud about being a certified storm chaser (he credits Walker with coming up with funding; I'd never heard of this, and a Google search isn't supplying any useful answers), and I wondered if the same things that motivated him to join the armed forces had motivated him to chase storms. He also seemed very trusting. He was willing to believe something he'd read on a sign in someone's yard because he'd trusted the person who'd erected it. I suspect that he drove down to sign because he'd read that I was there on Facebook, and while I have no idea which group he was referring to or its content, I have a nagging feeling that people were speaking hyperbolically about what they should do so they didn't have to see people like us out on the streets anymore, never intending to actually follow through. This man took them seriously, I suspect because he believes that everyone is as honest as he is.

We parted amicably, but I wondered if I should consider calling it a night. He was only my 29th signature, and I'd originally hoped to end the day with 35 signatures, one for each of my 35 years. I waited nervously to see if the influx of Facebook conspirators would arrive. I debated with myself how I should handle people who came to sign from this group. While others might say that I should be happy to have more signatures, I also have to sign off on the bottom of the page at the end of the day. I want to make sure that I feel comfortable with every signature on there. I have told people before that I didn't want them to sign my petition, that they should instead do some research first and then stop in at the office on the corner of Main and Merritt if they decided that they want to sign. As I waited, I alternately imagined cheerfully collecting their signatures with grasping my clipboard to my chest and refusing to let them sign.

When the first vehicle stopped after that, I was a little on edge, ready to interrogate my potential signer before proceeding, but the woman who arrived was someone who'd already signed, bearing gifts of hot chocolate. It was a huge relief and encouragement to stay. Only three more people showed up to sign in the next hour, and I half-jokingly asked them if they were part of this Facebook group. None of them were. Another woman stopped with hot chocolate. When that cup was done, I decided to call it a night. I was relieved that my storm chaser was the only person who stopped with this story, because I still wasn't sure how to comfortably deal with any others. It was odd and unsettling, and I needed time to process it. Ultimately, I think the suggestion on the group was just talk. It's the rare Walker supporter who goes out of his way to engage with circulators beyond yelling out a car window. In retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised that the only person actually willing to drive out in the snow and wind to sign my petition was a storm chaser who wanted to do what he thought would best benefit his community.

The Warmth of Kind Women

Despite Walker's implications earlier this recall season, I have yet to meet a paid circulator in Wisconsin's recall petition drive. I have, however, met many an activist. Many, like myself, would not have considered themselves activists before this year. As activists, we volunteer our time to gather signatures, expecting nothing more than personal satisfaction at working for a brighter Wisconsin future. As we stand outside in the cold, we get paid in warm fuzzies.

Occasionally, we are rewarded with something more. On Friday, I decided to collect signatures for my birthday. I spent about six hours outside that day, so I was grateful when Paulette stopped to offer me a hot chocolate and a cookie during my second shift. A little later, a woman stopped with some coffee for me. "I'm from out of state, so I can't sign. This is the best I can do," she apologized. As she was pulling out, another woman who was waiting noted that her license plate was from Texas. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I warmed my hands on the cup as the wind picked up and the snow started to fall. Upon deciding to drink it, I was pleasantly surprised that it was mocha-peppermint. Later, during my third shift, another woman stopped to bring me hot chocolate, this one a double-sized cup. About a half hour later, another woman stopped and offered me a hot chocolate.

For those of you keeping running score at home, that's four hot beverages and a cookie. In light of the blowing snow, it was very helpful in fueling my ability to remain outside in order to collect the 32 signatures total I brought home that day. That's six women so far this recall season that have offered me hot beverages, but of those six, only one was from out of state. All of the others had already signed. So if you're worried about who is fueling this recall, in my experience, only one in six beverages are purchased with out-of-state funds. (Yes, I say that with my tongue firmly planted inside my hot-chocolate-warmed cheek.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Police Visit and a Christmas Tree

"On the 36th day of recall, Scott Walker gave to me..."

Yesterday I had my first visit from a police officer while I was out collecting signatures. At about 2:00 I'd set up my ironing board signing station on the sidewalk between Walgreens and the Christmas tree sales location, and so far only two people had stopped to sign, though I'd had quite a few friendly beeps and waves, and only a few negative responses. I got a thumbs up from a car with Marine Corps plates and democrabeep from a Dodge, plus a couple of disagreements by muffler, one of those also from a Dodge.

My first signer came up from behind me and was either using understatement well or seemed a little underinformed for my tastes in an ideal petition-signer, so I made sure that she understood exactly what the document was and why I was collecting signatures before I let her sign it. (Am I the only circulator who has stopped someone from signing her petition?) Shortly after, a car parked behind me, and a woman yelled from the passenger seat, "I signed in Appleton, but my mom needs to sign!" I hollered back, "Come on down, Mom, you're the next contestant on 'The Governor Isn't Right!'" Mom's response? "Great! What do I win? A recall?"

It was a bit after the second signer that Officer C.A. showed up to check on me. He said someone'd phoned in a complaint that traffic was slowing down because I was there. He asked if I'd noticed any cars slowing down on the road in front of me wanting to sign. Since both of the other vehicles had approached from behind, and since I keep an eye out for how drivers respond in the interest of being aware of my surroundings, I could honestly say that wasn't the case. The officer was very nice about it, said it was probably just a Walker supporter that was upset I was out there at all, and mentioned that they get calls like that all the time. "I understand--I hear you get called out to visit Bob B. all the time, don't you?" He laughed in response, gave me a light parting pat on the shoulder, and told me to have a good day.

After he'd left, I was able to put it all together and see why someone would think that I'd been the cause of traffic slowing. When you approach the roundabout from the south, unlike other local roundabouts, you can only go straight in the right-hand lane. My location was pretty close to the place that people figure out that they have to change lanes if they don't want to turn left, and I watched several cars slow down to merge into the other lane. My guess is that someone observed this and assumed I was the cause rather than an unrelated circumstance. After his visit when I'd made the connection, I'd remembered that a vehicle had seemed to be changing lanes in a hurry right around where I was, but I'd discovered the driver wasn't paying any attention to me and was just in the wrong lane, so I'd dismissed if from mind. I'd had the same thing happen to me at least twice while I was driving this road recently, the second time because I forget at which of the two roundabouts on Koehler you can't go straight from both lanes. I suspect it was an honest mistake and concern for public safety on the part of the caller, not realizing that the traffic that slowed wasn't related to my presence. The caller and myself are both concerned with the wellbeing of the public, the officer was nice, so it's all good.

While things started out overcast, the sun came out for a while and I almost felt too warm collecting signatures in my multitude of layers. My third signer was like a slightly cuddlier version of Archie Bunker, and he focused on WWII imagery and suggested that it wouldn't be long before Walker and crew lined up the old folks around a hole, shot them, and covered them with lye. I was a little uncomfortable with the level of his intensity, but he presented himself humorously, so I wasn't overly alarmed. As he was signing, someone drove by and yelled "Walker's the best!" out their window. My signer stopped writing, looked incredulously at the passing vehicle, then flipped them off with his thick working-man's finger before returning to his task. While I wouldn't have done that or encouraged him, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't humorous to watch. Two other people pulled up to sign as well during this time. While they waited, a fourth person approached - someone from the Christmas tree sales lot. If he wasn't a supporter of the recall, the man is a marketing genius. One of my signers almost bought a real tree to replace his fake one.

Someone went by and yelled something indiscernible out the window, and I must once again remind you, gentle readers, if you yell from a car window, your argument must be both short and loud if I'm to understand you. A young man with absolutely gorgeous hair pulled in to tell me that he'd signed the petition the first day but that he'd wanted to stop and thank me for being out there collecting signatures. An older woman in the passenger seat of a passing sedan shook her hands like she had something distasteful on them. At least two more people democrabeeped (or attempted to), and drivers of several pieces of construction equipment, a coach bus, and a delivery truck all gestured favorably.

A couple of young men, one with a rainbow tattooed into his ear, pulled their tiny smart car in to sign my petition. A woman was supposed to sign at her aunt's on Thanksgiving but wasn't able to make it. She turned around to sign my petition. "I keep seeing you guys on Witzel, but by the time I notice, it's too late for me to pull in. I keep saying I'll do it at the next one!" A couple who had actually stopped to buy a Christmas tree had a similar story and were happy that they could sign and get their tree in one stop. The man who'd almost bought a tree before came back with his sister. When she said he'd made her come, I told her I didn't want her to sign unless she wanted to, and she indicated that she was in favor of signing, just not of coming out in the cold. "I used to live in San Diego--I'm freezing!" She wasn't wearing a winter coat.

Around 3:30 the temperature started to drop, and I was starting to feel cold. I'd originally planned to take off around 4:00, but I waited another twenty minutes in hopes of reaching 17 signatures for the day. Finally, a man and woman pulled in to sign. He was a CNA who was concerned about how Walker's budget was affecting his patients, and she was an unemployed woman about on the edge of giving birth who was losing her Badgercare. "What am I supposed to do?" she asked. I didn't have an answer for her.

Later that night I heard from my organizer that a man in a white sedan had waved a written threat and a noose in his direction while in front of Fleet Farm that day while three of them were collecting signatures. The other two had been busy, and it had been such a surprise that no one got a plate number. It's too bad no one got the plate number, because writing threats and waving nooses crosses the line. I know that many of the Walker supporters who shook their heads and fingers at me would do the same at him. We can disagree about things, but there's no call for threats. Both sides need to remember this as emotions continue to rise across the state.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ten Reasons to Sing

Today the Solidarity Singalong took a stand against the new anti-protesting rules in the capitol. Reports vary in the number of singers today's event drew, likely somewhere between 500 and 1,000. While the new rules state that a permit is necessary for gatherings of four or more--excluding families and lobbyists--there are apparently no plans to arrest anyone who isn't in compliance, which makes them more suggestions than guidelines, as far as I can tell. In all honesty, I think the new rules are rekindling the desire to be physically present at the capitol. I can't see how this is a win for Walker or his friends: even if it pulls petition circulators off the beat for an hour plus commute each day, the singalong inspires protesters, not just in Madison but also beyond. It's also poor timing on Walker's part, since TIME magazine has just named the protester the person of the year for 2011. These new rules are not only unconstitutional; they come at a time when people are ready to step up and oppose them as such. With all of this commotion, how could we keep from singing, whether we can be physically present in Madison or not?

After monitoring today's Solidarity Singalong, I spent two hours in front of my local Walgreens. I would say that positive reactions outweighed negative ones. I don't know if more people are supporting the recall or if more people are simply resigned to the fact that flipping me off will not make me leave. Cold, however, eventually will, and while the bank clock claimed 40˚, there was a bit of a wind that chilled extremities. I ended up with ten signatures, starting with a state employee who met me on the sidewalk before I could even take my place and ending with a couple of women who used the roundabout to come back and sign once they realized I was collecting signatures. That places me at 559 signatures. Still, ten more signatures are ten more reasons to sing!

I'm starting to doubt that I'll reach 1,000 signatures, but I don't expect to stop trying. I think the days of 100 signatures in an outing are gone, though. Perhaps when we switch to doors it will pick up a little again. Perhaps not. Either way, I'll put in the time.

On a side note, my brother-in-law, who lives near Detroit, observed a car on the freeway with Michigan plates and a "Recall Walker" bumper sticker. This made me smile. Just one more reason to sing. :)

A Moving (Re)Call to Action from Cognitive Dissidence

I don't have a satisfactory new entry for you yet, but I wanted to share this moving entry by Chris Liebenthal on his blog, Cognitive Dissidence. It's important enough that telling you to read it is the only thing I plan to do in this entry. So read it, and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Windbreak: 501 signatures

After posting about Bob reaching the 1,000 signature mark, I went down to the library and collected another eight signatures in about an hour. I met a few interesting people, including a vocal woman who was very concerned about affordable public transportation. My 500th signer was a woman from Kaukauna. I stuck around a bit afterward, but when no one else signed, I decided to call it a night and get back to working on my applications.

I spent yesterday finishing up application materials, paused long enough for the announcement that we have more than 507,000 signatures, then got back to work. Last night I was scheduled to help the UW - Oshkosh student Democrats collect signatures outside Scott Hall. Wind gusts peaked yesterday at 43 mph, so it was not a successful outing. Aaron came out to check on me after about an hour, in which time three people had stopped to comment on the brutality of the weather and a delivery driver for a food company (reportedly, one of their drivers may have stopped to sign elsewhere on a delivery run) gave me what I hope was an encouraging honk. I ended up abandoning Scott Hall (they did have tables inside in the dorms) and headed over to the library, where I stood for maybe 40 minutes and received one signature. I tried to stick around for more, but when the wind gusts started picking me up off the ground for the second time--all 12 stone of me--I figured it was time to call it a night. My toes were pretty cold at this point, but at least I got one more signature.

I did have one weird moment at the library, though. When I was walking toward the doors, I noticed a car with both a Ron Johnson and Scott Walker bumper sticker that appeared to be issued by the NRA. I really noticed because I also saw a PETA bumper sticker on the other side, and I assume if I'd stopped I'd have read "People Eating Tasty Animals" underneath. Later a car that was leaving the library pulled up near the sidewalk and idled behind me for a minute or two. I heard it there, but I didn't turn to look at it. It inched past me, and it was the same car. I don't know what the person was doing there, but if it involved calling the police or taking pictures, I'm sure they were disappointed in the results. It may have been as simple as stopping to dig a chap stick out of a purse, but with all the reports going on around the state, I did have to wonder. Nobody even yelled out a window at me, though, or flew me a free bird, so it may have been nothing at all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Fighting" Bob Reaches 1,000 Signatures!

This just in: today my Yoda, "Fighting" Bob of Oshkosh, reached (and no doubt exceeded) the 1,000 signature mark! Way to go Bob!

I'm supposed to be working on job applications, but I'm taking a few hours off to try to at least get eight more signatures so I can break 500 before returning to my task. Thank you, Bob, for being an inspiration to us all and for being a major leader in the fight to recall Scott Walker.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Overdue Black Friday Recap

So, as you may recall (heh heh, I said 'recall'), I was up north for deer season on Black Friday and ended up driving about an hour to the nearest shopping metropolis, Eau Claire, in order to properly occupy Black Friday with my recall Walker petitions. I wanted to be as dedicated as shoppers, but I settled with arriving shortly before 2:00 a.m. and set up on the sidewalk in front of Jo-Ann Fabrics, which wasn't open but which faced the main exit from Best Buy. During this time, I received what has been to date the most compelling defense of Walker's actions by one of his supporters. A curly-headed youth, possibly old enough to vote, stuck his head out of a passenger window and yelled, "Fuck you, Walker's the shit, Bitch!" Indeed, son, indeed.

I only got a handful of signatures in two hours, then decided I needed a bathroom break and a brief warm-up. I thought about checking in with the locals, but the volunteers I'd noticed collecting signatures near Target were gone. I'd planned to fill my car up with gas, too, but it turns out the gas station by WalMart never got the memo about midnight sales, and since pay-at-the-pump doesn't take cash, I settled on using the bathroom in the mall instead. Security was crawling all over the parking lot--later I'd hear from local volunteers that petition circulators had already been ousted from the property. I got a hot piece of pizza, left the parking lot, and decided I might rest in another parking lot for a bit in the car before trying again.

Around 6:00 I tried the gas station again and was able to fill up. While I was waiting for the bathroom, a woman noticed that I was wearing my Recall Walker Volunteer badge on my coat zipper like a ski pass and she struck up a conversation with me, then followed me to my car to sign the petition.

Since my mother, who is anti-recall, had announced that she wanted to be at Jo-Ann's at 6:00 when they opened, I decided I'd try something over in Chippewa Falls for a bit to minimize conflict. I realized the courthouse wasn't going to be open for the day and the library wouldn't be open for hours. I drove back to the Golf Road area of Eau Claire and stopped in to check with the fresh batch of recall volunteers who had taken over the location near Target. The amazing women there were a pleasure to talk to and let me know that the volunteers before them had collected around 90 signatures. There were now volunteers across the street by Kohl's, too, but as I drove into the parking lot to thank them, a manager was coming out with what I imagine was a 'concerned citizen.' While their table was not on Kohl's property, people were driving up behind them in the parking lot and honking for them to bring the petitions to them in their vehicles, which technically removes them from public property. I had to settle with a democra-beep and hoped that they'd make out OK. When I got back to Jo-Ann's and Best Buy, both sides of the sidewalk were occupied. I parked in a lot, talked to volunteers on my side of the road, then walked down towards Oakwood Mall.

There is a public sidewalk around the mall. There's only a small portion of it extending along the side onto which Highway 53 dumps its mallbound traffic, but there was an Olive Garden lot, then empty, right behind me, which meant that anyone who needed a place to park while they signed could manage easily. There was a mixed result from the traffic, as expected, but I was in the bounds of public property, and no police or security came to shoo me off. Twice women in their 30s to early 40s rolled down their windows, got ready to yell something at me, made eye contact, and chickened out. Maybe it's the smile, maybe it's the fact that I reportedly look 10 years younger than I should, maybe it was simply realizing I am, in fact, a real person, but whatever they thought I needed to hear suddenly evaporated from their lips. While I got a lot of yelling from vehicles, no one actually got out and harassed me, since shopping for bargains was clearly more important. I felt bad for one couple who had stopped to sign. A passing motorist screamed, "Get a job!" They said that they'd just been laid off and were at the mall to do exactly that.

Since I was planning on going hunting in the woods for the afternoon, I decided to call it a signature-gathering day at about ten with 26 signatures. It was a small amount for the number of people who had passed by, but better than nothing, and I tipped the nearby volunteers off to the success I'd had with the mall sidewalk. These would be the only signatures that I would collect on my trip up north. My afternoon hunt wasn't much better, since my gun jammed after my first shot at a small buck, but my cousin on the next stand over dropped it, and I was able to bring home a side of venison for our larder after all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot Chocolate's Good for Another Hour

At three this afternoon, I parked on the street and took up occupation on the sidewalk in front of my Pick 'n Save again. The first fifteen minutes took forever until my first signer showed up, then I had two more before 3:20. Lots of mixed response from drivers again, and two or three attempts by people to holler out the window with complete confusion.

(Drivers, keep your message short, simple, and loud, or I won't know if you're yelling that Scott Walker is great or that I'm great. Also, if your windows are darkly tinted, I don't know if those are two happy beeps or two angry beeps. I just know that you noticed me.)

At four, since I hadn't had any more signers, I crossed the street to see if I'd have better luck standing on the sidewalk in front of Walgreens. The advantage of being on the corner by Walgreens is that there is actually street parking on Kentucky, so if people don't want to get out of their cars and come to me on the sidewalk, I can motion to them to drive out and park on the street. Since there are plenty of parking lots around, the street parking is rarely in use.

Things were a little busier on the Walgreens side of the street, though not exactly booming. There were only three hecklings of note, including a woman in her late 30s to early 40s who tried to insult me with the "Loser" hand gesture, to which my mouth smiled, my hand waved, and my brain thought, "Lady, that hand signal lost its relevance about the same time as your hairstyle"; some Walgreens' customer who shouted "go home!" while I was collecting signatures from a man in a truck, who laughed when I blew them a kiss; and a group of probably high school kids who shouted at me like they were Walker supporters yet perplexingly yelled anti-Walker sentiments.

I'd originally told myself that I wanted to try to stay out for a full 17 signatures if I could. Around five I was stalled at 12 signatures and was starting to shiver a little bit in what the bank-clock claimed was 31˚ weather. Just as I was seriously considering calling it a night, a woman hopped out of a vehicle in the parking lot and came running over with a Starbucks cup in her hand. "My last name is Halliburton, but I'm a big-time Democrat! It's peppermint hot chocolate from across the street." I thanked her and drank it gladly, and I was able to stick it out until 6:15 and get another six signatures. (Three more signatures, just three more signatures.....two more signatures, just two....) I almost gave up on the last signature, but just then a woman rolled down her window and asked if she could sign. I came around the corner so we could sign it at her car in the street parking, and while I was collecting her signature, another woman noticed us and also asked to sign. So I wound up with 18 signatures for the night, bringing my total up to 487.

So, Ms. Halliburton, if you're reading this, your hot chocolate helped me stay out for another six signatures. Thank you for your contribution to the cause! Wisconsin thanks you for supplying heat to its Forward line!

The Purgatory of Walker Supporters

One of our signature challengers, @BatmanWI, had a weird personal-space invasion by a Walker supporter this evening and wanted to share the incident in a Facebook note so that people could think about what they might do if faced with a similar situation. It's certainly not the first unwanted contact between petitioners and Walker supporters, and not likely to be the last.

While both sides of the issue have done good jobs of painting each other as bogeymen, incidents are surprisingly low given the strength of sentiment in the state. I've talked to some obnoxious Walker supporters, but none of them have tried to invade my personal space or deface my petitions, which is a good thing for both of us, because, like many other volunteers, I've thought about what I would do if the situation arose. (Incidentally, it involves tackling anyone who messes with my petitions, then picking his back pocket for his wallet to get his ID. Getting a license plate number is my backup plan.) I do think, however, that the announcement of being over halfway there in 12 days has been a reality check for some Walker supporters.

Let's face it, it's not easy to be a Walker supporter right now. While activists like you and I are out there busily gathering signatures, there's nothing for them to do right now except donate money, and how many Walker supports are actually in a position to do that during the holiday season? Some of them are bound to be feeling helpless because they can't control the outcome and they really don't have anything constructive they can do right now. They're stuck in a waiting game with an inadequate funding of patience. Unfortunately, that's a recipe for elevated incidents to occur.

At the same time, though, it's important not to let your imagination run away with you. The majority of incidents described by people seem to be intimidation attempts. They want to scare you into not circulating petitions. The solution to most of these situations is to simply not be scared. Do be cautious and keep your wits about you, but don't let them intimidate you into not volunteering, because then they win. And right now that's the ONLY strategy Walker supporters with shallow pockets have available to them until the recall election is certified as a success. It's a sad little corner of purgatory to occupy. We should know--we've been there for months, but at least we had the knowledge that we could look forward to this time of recall activity. Walker supporters have been in denial about the true desires of Wisconsin residents for too long, and only now are they realizing that Walker will have to reapply for his job after all. It's a scary place for them to be. I don't condone any of the intimidation tactics, but I think I understand them. That understanding will not, however, keep me from marching on the Forward line.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tips from the Trenches

Here are a list of random tips gathered from recall volunteers. Some are more serious than others. Feel free to adopt the more useful ones for yourself.

• Dress in layers.
• Mom was right: wear a hat! Bomber hats are indeed the bomb.
• Invest in hand-warmers.
• Snow pants aren't just for snow: they're great against wind, rain, and plain cold.
• Wear mittens over stretch-gloves. The mittens offer greater warmth, but when you have to remove them for dexterity, your fingers won't be bare.
• Drink warm fluids before going out, but not so many that you have to pee right away.
• If you're not going to be in a densely crowded area, consider a hot meal rich in legumes for time-delayed release of heat. (Beans, beans, the musical fruit....)
• To increase circulation while you're waiting, play air-piano with your fingers and wiggle your toes.
• If you start to shiver, it's time to go in and warm up. No, don't stay out for just five minutes longer. You're done.

• Gel pens don't freeze.
• Ironing boards make great instant signing stations. Can place on a public sidewalk without blocking traffic. You can also attach signs to it.
• Plastic storage clipboards allow you to stash signed petitions safely as they are completed. You can also store extra pens inside.
• Always carry extra pens.
• If you find yourself out with normal ball-point pens in freezing weather, you can store them inside your coat so they stay warm, swapping out a new one as the one in use freezes.
• You can make a good two-sided clipboard with a rectangle of particle board and binder clips.
• A large rubber band around the lower section of your clipboard can keep pages from flapping in the wind.
• Use legal-sized plastic protectors to protect completed petitions.
• Carry an umbrella in wet weather and hold it over the petition (and elector) while it's being signed.
• You can hang a clipboard around your neck from a lanyard to keep it close to you at all times but keep your hands free.

• Public sidewalks are always fair game for recall signature collection.
• Your local HQ has been compiling lists of good signature collection locations in your area. You don't have to search for spots blindly yourself.
• Public libraries are gold mines for signature collection. You will need to stay outside most libraries to do this, but most libraries also only use one entrance. Plus, you can park in their lots and you can stow your petitions in your car while you step inside to pee or get a drink from the fountain at intervals.
• Public sidewalks in front of closed businesses are great places to set up, because many have a handy place for people to pull out of traffic easily to sign. Since the business isn't open and no one is using the lot, it's unlikely that the owner will be inconvenienced and ask you to leave.
• Fleet Farm and Farm & Fleet are frequented by rural customers who otherwise might not see many petitioners in their communities. However, do NOT park on their lots--park somewhere else, walk, and stay on the public sidewalk.
• Check your local recall HQ for a list of events. Share any events that you know of with your local HQ.
• High traffic doesn't necessarily equal high signature numbers. If traffic is too heavy, people will focus their attention on other vehicles and tune out your presence. If it's not easy to pull in and out of your location, that will also play a factor.
• Be aware of usual traffic flow. Know your events, shift-changes, lunch breaks, rush hours, etc.
• Grocery stores before a Packer game are generally a solid signature outing.

• Visibility is everything. There are more than enough people who want to sign the petition--we just have to give them the opportunity.
• Neon colors show up well.
• Laminate your sign to weatherproof it.
• If your coat isn't overly visible, add a bright vest over top. You can find inexpensive ones at your local thrift store.
• You can use a kitchen broom as the base for a double-sided sign, homemade ones or yard signs. Depending on your coat, you may be able to put the handle in your pocket for hands-free visibility. For stability, add a zipping vest over your coat to keep the handle close to your body so it doesn't flop around.
• Figure out at what level you will hold your sign before attaching the handle. Make sure that both sides are visible above your head.
• You can make lighted signs using Christmas lights.
• Balloons are great for grabbing attention.
• If you'll be in a location after dark that isn't well-lit, bring a flash light for petitions and for your sign. Hands-free flashlights work well for petitions.
• You can use reflective paint on your sign.
• If you have good, visible signs, you don't have to ask people to sign your petition: they ask you if they can sign it.
• If you're able to have your car on the property, you can put recall signs on your car.
• Attaching your recall badge to your coat zipper like a ski pass means you can 'forget' it's there and have people ask you to sign petitions when you're not carrying your clipboard. You can also use recall "ask me" buttons to accomplish this.
• Hold your sign so that traffic comes toward the writing. It's much easier to see a sign facing you when you're driving than one you have to turn your head sideways to read.

• If a signer wants confirmation that you're the real deal, consider showing your ID. Your Recall HQ badge is also helpful. Finally, if you didn't print out your petitions yourself at home, look for the union-printed seal on the bottom. Whatever lengths people might go to in order to destroy petitions, anything with the union seal on it came from a recall HQ office, and these offices take down all your info and ask you when you're bringing them back, too. Probably too much trouble for most fakers.
• If you have a cell phone, program in the non-emergency number for your local law enforcement agency as well as your recall HQ phone number.
• Bring a camera. Document anything suspicious.
• Be prepared to get the license number of a vehicle if the driver threatens or otherwise harasses you or signers.
• Don't needlessly engage in debate. You're there to collect the signatures of people who WANT to sign. You can supply helpful information, but you're not there to change anyone's mind. You won't change anyone's mind, so enter all discussions with that knowledge.
• Stay cool. Bullies will try to provoke you. You're better than that.
• If people claim you don't have a life but insist on continuing to verbally attack you, feel free to remind them that they are wasting their own valuable time. Nothing they say will make you leave. Ask them what they hope to accomplish.
• Look people in the eye. Smile.
• As the circulator, you are able to fill in anything but the signature. If someone has shaky hands, you can help them. Also, you can have people simply sign the Kleefisch petition and fill in the rest from the accompanying Walker sheet later, which is especially helpful if it's really cold, people are in a hurry, or you have several people waiting in line. Make sure you find out from your local HQ what things you need to initial if you do this.
• If you find yourself on private property and you're asked to leave, do so happily. Just make sure that the person who asks you to leave has the authority to do so. A subtle way to do this is to ask the person to write down his or her name and number for our records in case we need to follow up in order to make sure this doesn't happen again.
• It's good to have a buddy to increase visibility and to offer each other bathroom breaks, but being alone doesn't mean you can't collect signatures anyway. Even women can collect signatures alone. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine. (Note: BattiestGrrl is almost always alone when she collects signatures. Sure, there've been some bozos, but nothing serious.)
• Trust your gut. You're picking up on cues you haven't processed yet. Until you know otherwise, your gut is right.
• Create an emergency signature kit in your car so that you can collect signatures at any time. It should include at least one good sign, blank petitions, and pens.
• Set goals for yourself and schedule time to go out.
• Carry a 'rape whistle.'

• Carry granola bars or other semi-healthy snacks in your pocket.
• If your nose tends to run in the cold, use Halls cough drops to control the drip.

Feel free to send in your own tips! Forward!

The Challengers Report

With all of the 1,000 Signature Challengers reporting in their numbers, we've reached 2,146 signatures amidst the lot of us. "Fighting" Bob is in the lead, followed by me. The tag-team of @wisocialworker & @BoxmanSigns are barely edging out @ktuerk, who's closing fast. @BatmanWI is next, with @amadorlicea trailing, but with working two shifts that's completely understandable. The whole point of the challenge is to have fun while we work towards a goal, so no real pressure here. I'm sure there are volunteers who haven't officially taken the challenge who've single-handedly made it to 1,000 signatures already, and I am grateful for every single signature they've each collected. It's a friendly competition, and we all win.

We've introduced some new items in Oshkosh for fun and games, including a signature leader board to track the progress of individual volunteers. (It turns out that Bob & I combined are responsible for around 1/3 of the signatures that have been turned into Oshkosh.) We've also introduced a new game which awards ladder-rungs to volunteers for various abuses that they endure while out in the field. Since some people have had some pretty awful things happen to them in the line of duty, it's meant as a way for people to laugh at these things with their fellow volunteers. So the next time some young man yells, "Fuck you, Walker's the shit, Bitch!" I get to move my marker up the ladder one rung for the F-bomb. (Personally, I'd hope that masterful argument would be worth more points--I might be able to get two since it also contains a "Walker is the best" type of sentiment in addition to the F-bomb.) First person to reach the stars wins!

Speaking of stars, here's another good recall diary read to check out. All of you fabulous volunteers out there, please stay safe and keep those signatures coming! You are all, as @theadingo coined it, DemocStars!

Pre-Packers Signatures: A Gain of 21.

After church let out, I took the route home that led by Festival Foods and democra-beeped the volunteer collecting signatures there, then parked on the street near my local Pick N Save and took up camp on the sidewalk. I had three signers right away, then a short lull. At this time, a woman in an SUV rolled down her window, thanked me, and asked me if I wanted a coffee or a hot chocolate. (There's a Starbucks in the mini-mall right behind where I was standing.) I thanked her, but I hadn't been there long enough to get cold yet. If she'd driven by an hour later, I'd have surely taken her up on her kind offer.

When my fourth seemingly mild-mannered signer joined me on the sidewalk, he was quite eager when I asked him to also sign for Kleefisch. "She used to work in my profession, and I thought she was a bitch - excuse my language - then." I've only had three signatures less for Kleefisch than I have for Walker, though not everyone knows much about her other than she's Walker's second-in-command. For many, she's just guilty by association, though those of you familiar with our LT know that she has a wide range of personal flaws, not the least of which is embracing a mindset that allows her to equate gay marriage with marrying a dog or a table. I encourage anyone who has doubts about Kleefisch to visit You Tube, search "Rebecca Kleefisch," and allow her to convince you to recall her in her own words.

I had my first person in uniform sign, though he didn't want to be seen signing in uniform so he stayed in his vehicle, and while I was collecting signatures another volunteer, Twitter's unkybunky, beeped and waved as she pulled into Walgreens across the street. A few minutes later she came back out, moved her car to street parking, and broke out her sign and clipboard. Almost immediately she had two cars waiting to sign pulled up next to the sidewalk. I talked to her briefly in the midst of things and she said that she'd gone in for a prescription but that there were eight people in line, so she decided to come out and collect signatures until after the Packer game started. That, my friends, is dedication! Not to mention a reminder that we should always show up prepared.

After three sub-seventeen signature days in a row, I was thrilled when a couple signed and put me at 18 signatures just before 2:30, but since I'd been there since around 12:30, I was starting to get a little cold. I was cold enough to strongly consider packing up when the bank clock down the road read 2:45 instead of waiting for actual kickoff, when a red car pulled up behind me, beeped, and motioned for me to come to his window. As I always do, I shook my head and motioned that he needed to come to me on the sidewalk. After he attempted several more times to get me to come to him, he exited the car and walked halfway towards me as I explained that I had to stay on public property. He was a retirement-age gentlemen, and he asked me why he should sign the petition. By now, this response is a warning flag for me that the person approaching is a Walker supporter. I gave him the standards of union-busting and restrictive voter ID laws, answered a couple of questions politely, then he told me I wasn't doing a very good job of convincing him.

At this point, I asked him directly and evenly if he was there to sign the petition or if he was just there to give me a hard time. He assured me that he wasn't there to give me a hard time, that he just wanted to know why he should sign. I told him I was only there to collect signatures from people who really wanted to sign the petition, and that if he wasn't sure I encouraged him to go home and do some research on reasons to recall Walker. I told him politely that I didn't want him to sign my petition today and that he could go to the HQ office to sign after he'd researched the issue if he felt that was the right thing to do. I hadn't noticed this, but my co-collector across the street told me afterward that his body language had gotten increasingly combative and he kept speaking more loudly, and she was wondering if she'd need to come and supply backup. After more discussion, I had to ask him again why he was there and what he hoped to accomplish. "If you're just here to give me a hard time, it's not going to make me leave or stop me from collecting signatures."

Finally the other shoe dropped, and he wasn't able to maintain what he had hoped was an illusion of open discussion, as he retorted that the company that he'd worked for had closed, and then proceeded with some union-bashing (he had made it point to argue earlier that eliminating collective bargaining wasn't union busting, which, technically true or not, is another red flag), and told me, "You people working for the state need to stop crying and get over it," as he moved back towards his car. I smiled. "Do I look like I'm crying? Also, I don't work for the state. And I'm not a teacher, either." (Well, not the kind of teacher he thinks I am, anyway, and I won't have a teaching job again until January.) His response was to say that it didn't matter, because "You're not even 25, anyway!" and slammed his car door behind him.

I know I snorted before I hollered back, "Excuse me, I'm 34!" but I'm pretty sure he didn't hear me. Not that my age matters, but for a second I had to fight down the urge to pull out my ID and run into the parking lot to tap on his window before he threw the car into reverse. It was a ridiculous way to end an argument, and it doesn't surprise me that he went for the personal shot at my age, however wrong he was. I was happy to have a woman stop to sign shortly afterward as she was racing in for pre-Packer bacon for BLTs, and then I collected what I consider to be a celebrity signature from the Woman Who Walks Everywhere, only now I know here name, too! (No, I'm not going to tell you!) One more friendly signature, and I called it a day with 21. That puts my running total for signatures at 469. Hopefully I can make up some more ground on my total before another weekend at Emerge training. I haven't a prayer of catching Bob, but that's not going to stop me from trying. He's up to 703 signatures to recall Walker. He'll be out there tomorrow, and he'll make every minute of it count, too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Yoda: "Fighting" Bob, the Recall Master

I apologize for falling behind on updates. I've been struggling with energy levels since I got back from my northern excursion. I collected 23 signatures at the library on Monday, 119 at the library on Tuesday, I stayed in to try to catch up on things around the house on Wednesday, managed a measly 9 on Thursday, and only came up with 13 today before I called it a day at half past cold. I'm scheduled to collect at an event at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, and it looks like I'd better take the bright orange "happy crab" umbrella with me. I'll also be giving the ironing-board signature station its maiden voyage tomorrow.

Because I'm feeling such a drain from my personal life right now, I'm trying to put my all into the recall, but, other than Tuesday, it feels like it's turning out to be a pretty meager mustering this week, and not just from a numbers perspective. As I struggle through my days right now, I know that there are others out there that are so much more worthy of the spotlight that I had no idea would be pointing my direction on Monday. For instance, Elias and has amazing recall backpack. But especially my very own Yoda, Oshkosh's "Fighting" Bob, who is kicking my tail in signature collection as of this moment.

While I'm lodged at 441 signatures, last night Bob already had 648 signatures. He had more than 500 on Sunday night. When I talked to him after the HQ meeting on Sunday, we discovered that our tally systems were different and I didn't feel quite so inadequate (he'd been counting the signatures for both Walker and Kleefisch, while I was only counting Walker; the numbers you see here now are reflective of my Walker-centric way of tallying--double his numbers and imagine how inadequate I initially felt). Still, I'm absolutely amazed at Bob's ability to go out there and get those signatures, no matter what.

Bob left me with this bit of wisdom: he said it didn't matter what he'd already done, it just mattered what he'd go out and do tomorrow. Since I'm feeling challenged today, I'm trying to focus on Bob's philosophy. OK, so I've got 441 signatures so far. So I only got 13 signatures today. That's in the past. What am I going to do tomorrow? At this point, I plan to make sure that I'm to my post by 10:00 a.m. with a smile and my umbrella and hope that this event turns out for us. No matter what happens, I should plan to go out again on Sunday. And the day after that. And the day after that. If he's not working crazy shifts, I know Bob will. And he'll make every moment count. I want to follow his example and do the same. May the Forward force be with you. It's strong with my Yoda, Oshkosh's "Fighting" Bob, and I'm grateful for his guidance.