Primo and I did four hours of doors this afternoon. It's already a time suck and made all the worse when I encounter a jerk. Which, I admit, is rare - today was the first time it happened. Some people have been dismissive, but at least they didn't waste my time. This lady was hostile and I couldn't get away from her. Why? Because I was worried about offending a crazy, rude, hostile voter. Oy.
I had marked this lady - let's call her "Hester" as not home on my voter list, but then the garage door opened and she emerged. I smiled, held out Primo's door literature piece, and began my spiel: "My husband Primo is running for the State House in the November election. He's an engineer who has never run for office before. We would appreciate it if you would consider voting for him when you are evaluating the candidates."
That's usually enough for most people to say, "OK. Thanks," take the lit, and go on about their lives.
Not this lady. Not Hester.
"Why should I vote for him?"
That's a fair question.
"He's an engineer..."
"I don't care that he's an engineer."
"The new district - have you seen the new district? Look at this map. Do west Springfield and east Johnstown have anything in common?"
"Why are you asking me questions? Answer my question!"
"The new district is going to require a balanced approach --"
"That's telling me nothing. Tell me about his character! How much does he give to charity?"
Dryly, I replied, "A far greater proportion than the president and the vice president."
"Does he volunteer?"
"No-" because he works 70 hours a week.
"What about you?"
"I volunteer at the library. I used to volunteer at the reading program for little kids--"
"I was there two years, but had to quit because the lightbulbs were giving me a migraine."
"That's no reason to quit. Why does he want to go into politics? Does he have any experience?"
"He has worked on a few political campaigns in the past year and a half."
"Where does he stand on medicare? On social security? I want someone who has spent at least six months studying these issues."
Of course I was not quick enough to note that these are federal programs and not something Primo would be involved in at the state level. But I did know I wanted to get away from this woman. I tried to edge away, but she persisted.
"I've spent a lifetime studying these things. There's a book you should read. It's not the parties that run things in this country, it's a few people behind the parties. Do you know who is running things?"
I muttered a weak, "No," trying desperately to find an opening in the conversation that would let me escape.
"It's the one percent! They run everything! Have you wondered why the government is run so poorly? I've spent my career in government. The good ones get out as soon as they can and they don't get rid of the bad ones."
Well. That explained a lot.
I made the mistake of making a smart comment. "I have not been impressed with the DMV. Even Florida's DMV is run better than the one here and Florida is not a well-run state."
"Florida! FLORIDA! Do you know who really runs Florida? You have to read this book." She went into the garage to her car. I should have taken the chance to run. Too late. She returned with a book that she waved in my face. "This man - this man! - won a Pulitzer prize! He doesn't belong to either party. You need to read this book to learn the truth!"
I dutifully wrote the title down.
"Tell me about his CHARACTER," she demanded.
I tried. But she kept interrupting. Besides, I wasn't sure what she wanted to know. "He's honest and hard working," I said.
Then she asked what I did. "I work for a non-profit downtown."
"Doing what?" she asked.
"I do marketing," I answered.
"No! What does the organization do? How is it funded?"
"It's an association of people who love kittens. It's funded by its members."
She looked skeptical. "What does it do?"
"Oh, there are classes for people who want to learn more about kittens."
She pounced. "So it's a BUSINESS."
I rolled my eyes. "Of course it is." Honestly, I get so tired of the notion that non-profits are morally superior to for-profit enterprises. No organization - except government - can survive unless revenues exceed expenses. "Non-profit" is a tax status. That's all. It does not mean that the organization can't or doesn't make money. Although I will say that the kitten business is not particularly lucrative and that the pay and benefits at the kitten association are really, really crummy.
"Don't get defensive with me," she snapped. "You need to be a little more customer friendly."
I thought to myself, "So I'm supposed to put up with your being rude to me but I'm not allowed to react?"
We went on in this vein for ten minutes, ten minutes where I was desperately thinking, "How, how, how do I get out of this conversation without being rude?"
She continued: "My husband was killed in Vietnam. Shot at the age of 22. He got all the medals - Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Hearts, everything."
I thought, "I highly doubt that a 22 year old in Vietnam got the Distinguished Flying Cross." Maybe he did, but I can't tell: I found a site was supposed to list all the recipients, but my work internet blocked the site as a lingerie site. Go figure.
She went on: "And not one, not ONE president has thanked me for my sacrifice."
Which I also doubted, because the Flying Cross is a Big Deal and I would suspect that the award came with either a personal ceremony with the president or at least a letter from the president.
"Until Obama! Obama sent me a letter!"
Oh boy. I did not want to talk about national politics or presidents or anything. Just local politics, please.
"I went to the Stripes campaign headquarters to ask them where they stood on things. They shook my hand-" she put out her hand-"take my hand." I did. "They squeezed! They squeezed so hard! I said, 'There's too much testosterone around here.'"
Oh Lord please save me, I screamed inside.
She shook her head. "And now I can't even find a place to get a Polka Dot sign for my yard."
We - she - switched subjects. "His character. What's his character like?"
I had already made the mistake of telling her that he visited his parents, even though they were mean to him. I mentioned that I did not visit them because they were mean to me. She asked if I was a religious person and if so, why didn't I forgive them? Why wasn't I the bigger person? Why didn't I visit them anyhow just to be nice?
I was starting to feel like crying.
"His character! What's his carbon footprint? How many cars do you have? Do you have a TV in every room?"
This one I could answer. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been answering at all. These issues were none of her darn business. But I was in my defensive lizard brain, thinking that if I would just give her what she wanted, she would leave me alone. It is this mentality that leads people to negotiate with terrorists.
"We have one car," I said.
Which is not true. But we have one car that we actually use. The other is pretty much decorative.
"I take the bus to work. We have one TV that's in the basement. We cancelled our cable over two years ago. We almost never watch."
She nodded approvingly. I had my chance. I reached out my hand to shake hers. I had to escape. Had to. "I won't waste any more of your time," I said politely. "Thank you."
"Tell your husband to call me! I want to know what he thinks about social security!"
I nodded, afraid to say anything that might inspire another torrent of words from her. It was a lying nod, because I intended to warn Primo away from Hester. Too much work for the possibility of one vote. Not worth it.