The Joys of Precinct Walking

By Chelsea Irvine

Chelsea Irvine
Chelsea Irvine

“Get that crap out of here,” the pajama’d old man snarled at me.

“Ok, thank you sir. Enjoy your day,” I responded timidly as I rushed away from the door.

We are one day away from Election Day and the air is thick with frustration.  

This year, I was fortunate enough to be asked to lead the campaign to get one of my good friends elected to City Council in our neighbor city. It has been an amazing experience. She has a heart built for public service and the resume and smarts to back it up. I haven’t felt this passionate about a cause in quite some time.

However, the experience of “walking precincts”, aka knocking on strangers’ doors every day for months has been eye-opening, to say the least.

While I understand that nobody wants to be stirred from their spot on the couch on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I can’t tell you how many people have answered my knocks, not with a simple “ok, thank you, bye,” but with outright contempt.  

Two weeks ago, we walked towards a house where a man (I guess you could call him that) around my age was working out in his garage with the door open. As someone with an affinity for working out myself, I said to my friend/candidate, “Hold tight! He’s not on our list, but we should stop anyway. I mean, I lift, too. Bro.’

As I approached the open garage door, not halfway up the driveway, “NOT INTERESTED!” was bellowed at me from behind the cover of his (very lightly stacked) barbell.  

Ok, man. I get it. You don’t want what I’m selling. Except I’m not selling anything.  

So I turned around and tucked my tail between my legs as we walked on to the next house.  

But it hurt. I mean, you don’t have to listen to my (literally 30 second) pitch about why you should vote Q this Election Day. But you don’t have to be nasty about it.  

I guess it doesn’t matter anyway in this case since he’s probably not even registered to vote.  Maybe the steroids got to his brain and made him lose his sense of decency.

I grumbled about him and his rudeness for hours after that incident.

Since when did people feel the right to be downright nasty to strangers?

volunteersDon’t get me wrong, I have knocked on HUNDREDS of doors that were answered with warmth, and many with appreciation for taking the time to introduce them to their prospective council member.

But I’ve had a serious percentage of nasties. More than a handful of doors slammed in my face. Plenty of “No thanks!” yelled through screen doors. And a good number of people aggressive “NO SOLICITING” girl bye hand signs.  

Can I take a quick moment to talk about “no soliciting” signs?

What is with that huge red hand with the X through it? Like, saying the words “no soliciting” doesn’t get your point across? Do we need that hand? Does it have to be so big and hostile? I see your sign. I won’t knock on your door (even though I’M NOT SELLING ANYTHING). You can take that mean hand and punch yourself in the throat with it.

And the signs that have a paragraph about exactly which kinds of solicitors you don’t want? The salespeople/religious proselytizers/solar companies/politicians…. My goodness. I get it. And I just wasted two minutes of my life reading your stupid sign, when I could have been talking to a prospective voter. I bet you’re not even registered either. Jerk.

I know we are all tired of seeing political ads on TV, and news stories, and Pandora commercials, mail pieces and yard signs. It’s been a long campaign season. And one fought with wars of words that are meant to hurt, disparage and cut down.  

But if I can’t knock on your door to explain to you that there’s a local election happening and I believe in my heart that my candidate will be good for your city, your family and you, taking time from my days and weekends to share why I feel so strongly, then what can I do

I’m running the risk of having doors slammed in my face (or worse) because some people put their hat in the ring that truly want to do good for others. All I ask is that you treat me like any other person you would see on the street. A little respect and perhaps even kindness. And I promise my pitch will be short and I’ll be out of your hair.   

Our team of volunteers has knocked on thousands of doors over the past two months. I want to thank everyone who has answered and been kind. No matter if you told me you’re voting for someone else.  

And to those who have hidden from my door knock, I understand. I’ve done the same thing. 

This campaign season, when someone knocks on your door, I hope you’ll remember that they are a person. And give them the benefit of 30 seconds of your day. We remember every friendly person and each one makes our hours spent knocking on strangers’ doors a little easier and maybe even a little bit fun.

And please, no matter your politics, vote.  

Unless you have that intrusive no-soliciting-girl-bye-Shrek-hand-sign. You can take that hand and shove it.

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