Digging a Hole

Monday, December 29, 2008

Things That Are Distracting America

Oh, werd?
First of all, a big shout out to whichever church in my neighborhood blasts bells at sunrise each morning. It's cool. I like not having full brain function from the sleep deprivation. I definitely don't need to sleep 8 hours in one night ever. It's good because the deprivation makes me less likely to censor my anger and emotions during the day. It's just like being interrogated! Yay!
Anyhoo... let's try this again...
Oh, werd?
We wind down the year in the midst of one of the biggest recessions in American history. Many Americans are out of work. Luckily, we also have some of the best distractions in American history. In fact, if unemployed Americans bought more of these distractions, maybe we could jump start our consumer economy. On the other hand, maybe unemployed Americans with cool toys will never bother to look for work again. I think that would boost our employment statistics, too.
So, here, in grand blogging tradition, is a list of the things that are distracting America:
1) Blogging.
I might as well start here rather than make it the cleverly ironic last thing on my list. You could say that blogs are an outlet for creativity and combat writer's block by encouraging candid off the cuff publishing. Or... blogging is a modern attention-seeking behavior. Or both. Either way, there are now blogs about blogs, books to tell you how to get more people to read your blog, and little tools that tell you how many people visit your blog and where they are from. I know that I got my best writing done when I was unemployed, so I assume we can expect some great works of blogging to appear in the world in the months to come.
2) iPhones.
It's a phone! It's an iPod! It's Google Earth! It's a really expensive breakable thing that you carry everywhere! (Did you know that you can blog from an iPhone?!) I have always thought that the iPhone was ridonkulous, but I think the funniest thing about them is the features that their owners choose to show you to demonstrate their power and usefulness. The first iPhone owner I ever met demonstrated that like a regular camera phone, it can take a picture, but UNLIKE these inferior phones, iPhones have a program that let you put an eye patch and pirate mustache on the photo. Now that is going to increase productivity. Yesterday, an iPhone owner showed me the fake zippo lighter feature and the light sabre function. Now if Apple comes out with a phone that actually can emit a metal-slicing laser beam, I will be impressed. Until then, iPhones are one more thing you should not have put on your credit card last summer.
3) Fantasy Football.
It's hard to get anything done when Brian Westbrook is your starting running back, and ESPN.com provides up to the minute injury updates with ESPN Football Injury Analyst Stephania Bell. Once upon a time, I hurried to get my homework done so that I could watch the Giants game. Now, I need to also see the Eagles, Cowboys, Cardinals, and Buccaneers (that is, until Earnest Graham went down with injury... then I needed to watch the Saints and Patriots, too). Not only are there games to watch, but there are players to pick up, smack to talk, and Kevin's polls to respond too. Did I mention free live scoring within a tenth of a point? In our league, there was a direct correlation between having a full-time job and *not* making the championship game. I rest my case.
4) DVD box sets.
Holy crap! Not since internet cartoons have we found such an awesome way to waste time! I never would have seen every episode of Friends and Sex and the City if I had been employed in late 2005. The recession should mean a boom time for DVD manufacturers. We should open a DVD factory in Ohio or another similarly depressed area. Also, now that my roommates and I are completely addicted to the DVD box set of House, we don't need universal health care. We are definitely now qualified to diagnose and treat lupus, lyme disease, that thing where cancer is in one part of the body but it hurts somewhere else, and vasculitis. All Obama needs to do is give every unemployed American a copy and access to WebMD to fix our health care crisis. Just to be safe, we could also give every American a box set of ER.
5) Flat screen TVs.
The picture isn't fuzzy because your old TV sucks. It is fuzzy because you have vision problems. Get some glasses. They are way cheaper than the hi-def wall eating monster at Best Buy. I know a Scrubs fan with a box set who can write you a prescription.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gods I Believe In

Oh, werd?
It is December. That means there are several holidays to celebrate and several gods to argue the relative worths of. This time of year, when working outdoors, one is reminded of one's mortality, and it is at those times of vulnerability that humans turn to the supernatural. Here, now, is the pantheon of gods that I depend on as a winter canvasser:
1) The God of Hot Water:
This god is particularly fickle. No matter the prayers you utter as you commit to shampooing your hair, the God of Hot Water may choose to smite you with freezing spray. Should you try to outwit this god, by turning the cold water all the way off and the hot water on full power, it will revel in demonstrating its power to you by restoring the hot water and scalding your scalp. By attempting to thwart the will of the God of Hot Water, you invite its full wrath and fury.
2) The Burb Guardian (also known as June's Guardian):
The Burb Guardian is a benevolent lesser god that watches over nonprofit vehicles to ensure the safety of those inside. No matter how many people sit in front of the back windows to obscure the rear view, empty water bottles roll under the brake peddle, or phone calls the driver answers, the burb will not get in an accident. The Burb Guardian creates a defensive forcefield to protect the passengers. I have to believe in this god because I frequently need to stop watching the road in order to count checks, add up stats, or console a sad trainee. During these moments, I must take it on faith that the frustrated canvasser-driver, fresh off a disappointing night of being told by rich people not to knock when it's snowing, won't turn the burb into oncoming traffic. If he/she did, though, the Burb Guardian would find a way to clear the road for us. Really.
3) Dogs:
Dogs (like Jesus) are God walking amongst us. Their endless joy reminds us that life is to be savored, even when snow turns to sleet turns to freezing rain. Dogs always support our environmental goals despite their masters' concerns that global warming is a myth perpetuated by Big Solar and Al Gore. Dogs also offer a convenient place to warm freezing fingers.
4) The Canvassing Gods:
The Canvassing Gods are an unclear number of mischievous but benevolent gods who monitor the karma of canvassing. If you persevere through a four and a half hour streak of miserableness, they will reward you at 8:45pm with a giant check and a mug of hot chocolate. When the weather verges on dangerous, they place a Dunkin Donuts in an otherwise completely residentially-zoned neighborhood. (I fully believe that most of these DandDs are ephemeral and disappear at 9:15pm when we drive away for the night.) These same gods will test your faith and loyalty with annoyances such as frozen puddles that smash underfoot, public works trucks that fling salt at you, and contacts who ask you to perform favors such as pushing their car up a snowy hill without reciprocating your kindness. They may place before you a test of character such as a harried mother who needs you to help her show her son calculus or an elderly woman who is lonely and wants you to join her for a dinner of Cup o Noodles. These contacts may write you a $100 check for your efforts, or they may write you a $2 check. Sometimes the will of the Canvassing Gods is not revealed until several houses or several nights later. Ultimately, though, they ensure that a hardworking canvasser will always raise standard (often enough to keep their job and pay their bills) and will always find a hopeful sign of humanity's ultimate goodness that makes them want to come back for more the next night.

(Grammar Caveat: I wrote this after many glasses of wine, so I will edit for spelling and punctuation later.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's a Christmas Miracle!

Oh, werd?
So, I was under the impression that only my college roommates, boyfriend, and dad read my blog. I was wrong. Apparently, I have secret followers! Awesome. Feel free to comment so that I can add you to my hand-drawn map of readers.
Anyhoo, December is both the best and the worst time to be a canvasser. It's the best because there are Christmas lights. It's the worst because it's dark before we get out of the burb. It's the best because you get to say "Happy Holidays!" like thirty to forty times a day. It's the worst because occasionally people you greet with "Happy Holidays!" accuse you of perpetrating the WAR ON CHRISTMAS! Luckily, someone is distributing car magnets that say, "It's okay to say Merry Christmas to me," to reduce the confusion. Phwew! It's the best because according to people I canvassed in June, people do all of their giving at the end of the year. It's the worst because people I canvassed last night did all of their giving in June. WTF, mate?
Last night was a case study in horribleness. Freezing rain drove sideways. Wind whipped umbrellas inside-out. The weather made walking difficult, so after over two hours of futility, I realized I would not be able to cover my whole neighborhood, and I had a choice. Should I walk left or right at an intersection? Turning to the left, I saw several large, well-lit houses. To the right, the houses were smaller and darker and even more rundown than the homes of the poor but friendly people I had met thus far. The only interesting thing to the right was an elaborate homemade manger scene on one lawn featuring a lit-up star perched atop a flagpole. I decided to throw it up to the canvassing gods (which are real) and took the star as my sign. Like Indiana Jones, I chose wisely.
The very first woman who came to the door took one look at my drenched rain suit and opened her door. She prepared some tea and then explained who she was. In 1987, her and other neighbors had organized to fight the planned garbage incinerator that would have allowed the entire county's trash to be trucked to and burned in her hometown. I had happened to stumble upon the biggest grassroots activist in the area. She was very helpful, warmed me up, and changed the tone of the night.
And all from following a star...
...made out of plastic...
...on a flagpole...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Canvassing the Recession

Oh, werd?
So, it is official. We have been in a recession. (Duh.)
But what does this mean for non-profit fundraising?
Well, if you canvass in the midwest states of Michigan and Indiana, money has been predictably hard to come by. On the other hand, lots of young, smart college grads are finding employment hard to come by as well, so the staffs are stocked with savvy canvassers finding ways to make each night work.
If you canvass in Ohio, times have been tough for years. The state is bleeding jobs, and locals are nervous about losing their biggest polluters because they also happen to be the biggest employers. Predictably, well-respected organizations like Ohio Citizen Action are struggling.
If you canvass the relatively wealthy East Coast, the effects of the recession are still hard to understand.
For example:
MillionDollarHomeMom: "I can't afford to donate this year."
KPd.: "No worries. People are helping out with their voices, too. We need letters to the State Assembly. "
MillionDollarHomeMom: "That's good, because they asked me to donate a dollar to the St. Jude's Children's Hospital at Williams-Sonoma today, and I'm like, how much can you give, ya know?"