Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wausau Wanderings

Having already received the gift of a new state senator, I wanted to help spread the joy and volunteered to go to Wausau on Tuesday. My signatures began before I even was ready to leave, since my doorbell rang right after I got out of the shower. I threw on the first clothes I could find and raced down as the man was walking away--the man who'd told me that he didn't want to sign while his wife was home had remembered the address I'd given him and stopped in to sign for Walker.

As I was driving to help with the Recall Galloway campaign, I democrabeeped a vehicle with Recall Walker and solidarity fist bumper stickers just south of Waupaca. Upon entering the building in Wausau, I was greeted by a familiar face: Aaron, UW-Oshkosh's organizer, was also helping out. Since I know I won't reach 1,000 signatures, I told him to send me wherever I was needed most. He chose a walk packet for me that included some expensive housing because he knew that I deal well with rejection.

I expected a walk packet with names and addresses, but when I reached my destination, the only thing inside the manila envelope was a map with streets highlighted on it. On the one hand, having a name list does filter out some of the hardcore Republicans, but it's also not a perfect science: I still wind up talking to people who tell me that they are registered Republicans. The advantage of hitting every door is that you don't have to look for house numbers as it's getting dark--every house is the right house. You also don't have to try to read paperwork in the failing light or mark down if people were home or not.

I parked my car and started my mission on Hilltop, and the first house I stopped at was a chilly reception despite the warm temperature. The response was only a little rude, but it seemed like a bad way to start under the dripping eaves. However, at the other end of the block I met up with an encouraging man who'd already signed, and the first house on the other side of the street was a woman who wanted to sign. As she signed for all three recall targets--Galloway, Walker, and Kleefisch--she told me that her mother-in-law would also want to sign, but that it was hard for her to get out. She gave me the woman's address, which was one block over and out of my highlighted territory. I finished out that side of the street on my way over, and I had an older woman who signed for Kleefisch. Apparently not all volunteers in Wausau carry all three petitions with them, since their first priority is Galloway, followed by Walker. She told me that Walker had come to speak to her granddaughter's class, and that she didn't think it was fair that Walker could show up at schools to talk when teachers were being reprimanded for discussing state politics. She gave me some unfrosted cookies from her new Packer cookie cutters before I left. I ran over to check on the mother-in-law on Brirawood, and she was home and answered the door when I rang. Her daughter-in-law had called ahead to warn her I was coming over because she doesn't always answer the door otherwise. She signed for all three while I entertained her excited shih tzu--it would be a day full of attention-seeking pups all over my walk terrain.

The duplex I stopped at next had child seats on the front porch in the first unit I rang. The woman who answered was thrilled to have her grandchildren, whom she called "Irish twins," staying with her for three days. The kids looked to be around seven and were absolutely adorable, and grandma was excited to explain to them what I was doing. She asked them to thank me, which they did. It was an interesting contrast to the woman in the neighboring unit, who gave me a sour negative response. At the duplexes across the street, a mother signed while her youngest children bundled up to go and walk their sister home from school.

After that, the road I was on got pretty steep, and the houses were much more widely spaced. At one particularly large home where I was prepared to face rejection, a young man who was home from college signed--his mother was a teacher. Across the street from him, another home had two large dogs running loose. They weren't overly friendly dogs, but I braved the front steps anyway. The man inside told me that he worked in the school system and he liked Walker, even going so far as to say he was his hero. Like the residents of the neighboring duplex units, the responses of these neighbors were quite contrasted.

Around 4:30 I made it back up to the more populated areas, and I had one man who, when I told him who I was and why I was there, slammed the door in my face without saying a word. I've had much more rude responses, so I made a mental note of the white pest-control truck in the drive, thought that perhaps his line of work didn't require a lot of polite exchanges, and promptly turned my attention to the next house, at which a young man informed me that the other residents would want to sign but weren't home at the moment. I took down their phone number and address for someone else in the office to pursue. I had another woman who asked where the office was located since she was on her way to a funeral and wasn't feeling in the mood to sign at that moment. A woman with a cast on her foot signed for Kleefisch, since the person she signed with also didn't have the papers for her at the time. I ended the night with six local signatures for both Walker and Galloway and eight for Kleefisch.

My worst response of the evening came from an older woman in a duplex. As she leaned over her walker, her white curls giving her the look of an octogenarian Methodist grandmother about to hand out cookies, she told me, "I do NOT want to sign and I hate you for what you're doing." I smiled, told her to have a nice evening, and left. I knew it wasn't personal, but I think it was a little harsh. I do need to sometimes remind myself that white-haired women in their 80s are not always sweet like the stereotypes; they have a right to be as cranky as everyone else.

By the time I was finished, it was about six, and I was just reaching the corner on Hilltop again when a red SUV pulled up to the sidewalk. A man hopped out and asked if I was with the recall Walker campaign, then waded into the snow between the road and the sidewalk. "I'm sorry. You stopped by my house earlier and I was rude. I slammed the door on you. I stopped to apologize." We were able to shake hands and agree that we could be civil even if we didn't agree. Before he drove off, he told me that he respected that I was out there working for something in which I believed. With the contrasting responses I received from neighbors, it was interesting to see the contrast embodied in a single person. Most of my day may have spent seeking out other people, but I both started and ended this day with people seeking out me.

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