I had never done a phone bank before. Here's how it works.
1. There is a script that appears on a computer screen with yes and no options of what to say.
2. Some machine dials voters on the list until someone answers the phone. When a person answers, the name associated with that phone number appears on the screen so you can say, "May I please speak to Jimmy Carter?"
3. Then the person slams the phone down or says, "He's not here," or, "You have the wrong number." You also might get a sweet old man who says, "She's in the bathroom," and then, when he finds out who you are, spends 12 minutes on the phone with you, even though you keep trying and trying to end the call. "Where does Primo stand on social security?" he asks.
You say, "Sir, that is a federal issue and not part of what he would be doing."
He says, "I want to know what he thinks about old people issues!" and he has a point.
4. It might take a minute or two to get a number where someone answers the phone. Which means there are a lot of calls that are made but not answered.
5. It looks to the voter like the phone call is coming from Primo's phone, because that's how they programmed it at the phone bank.
6. Some people, when they look at their call log and see a phone call that they did not answer, will call that number. Even if the caller did not leave a message. Even if they do not recognize the number.
I do not understand this! If you don't recognize the number and there is no message, then why are you calling? When people have done this to me, I have told them, "I called the wrong number." Except I don't usually bother to answer calls from numbers I don't recognize.
Chill, people! The world will not end if you don't know who called you!
So for 15 minutes, we were all calling. Lots of numbers that didn't answer. Primo finally arrived.
"My phone keeps ringing from numbers I don't know!" he said.
The young woman running the call center, Tiffany, came over. She looked at his phone. "I think it might be the people we didn't reach here."
His phone rang again. And again.
He called Ralph to ask what was going on. Ralph was supposed to have been at the phone bank but - wasn't.
[The next night, on the way to dinner, Primo said that he and Ralph had gotten over their fight about the mailer and were back together.
"You're not broken up any more?" I asked. "You're over your lovers' tiff?"
Primo laughed. "Yes, we're not broken up any more!]
Ralph said that he'd told the call center to make it look like the calls were coming from Primo's phone.
Tiffany suggested changing the outgoing number to all zeros. Which she did. Which solved the problem. But people continued to call all evening. The next day, I asked Primo if he'd listened to any of the messages or returned any of the calls.
He sighed and shook his head. "It was just too many," he said. "We didn't do it right."