Beast vs. Beast
In the cold dark of December canvassing, the shadows can play tricks on an organizer's eyes. The sun sets shortly after our 4pm start, and though Christmas lights are a welcome break from the relentless dark, it is common to feel that you are the only human creature who has dared to venture outside for miles. In an upper income neighborhood of giant "poppin' fresh" mansions, the quiet is even more severe. The ground has been sterilized by chemical lawn treatments, and now winter has sterilized the air as well. The front windows of most houses are dark as they look out from mostly ceremonial living and dining rooms decorated with chairs that nobody uses and pianos that nobody plays. It's cliche, but it's true.
Even the Christmas lights in these neighborhoods are sterile. Neatly spaced on rooftops that no common man could possibly scale, it is clear that the family hired somebody to decorate their home for them. There were no blown fuses, parents dangling from ladders, or mixed breed dogs barking at extension cords here.
In a neighborhood like this one, a canvasser survives relentless torment from the self-assured Right while waiting for one or two magical contacts.
Self-assured man (add your own upper income accent): I can't possibly support this.
KPd.: Okay... well have a happy holiday.
SAM: Don't you mean a "Merry Christmas"? - My dog! My dog is loose!
***tiny barking dog bursts into street***
SAM: Mildred! Mildred come back! Milly Milly! Mildred!
(I am not making that up.)
One local mother invited me in a little too quickly. It didn't take much for me to conclude that she was using some version of "mother's little helper".
Local mom: Do you like my lights?! Do you like my flowers?!
Friendly, but intense.
By 8:45 pm, I had had about as good of a night as you can ask for in the poppin' fresh suburbs. I decided to take one last look at a dead end that I hadn't seen yet, just to see if anyone was clearly up and about. One house looked inviting, but it was set back behind some tall shrubs, and I try to be mindful of frightening people at the end of the night. Across the street from me, a large husky barked and patrolled the edge of its invisible fence.
Invisible fences are a potential danger for canvassers. On a large property, an organizer can find themselves well beyond the invisible boundary before they realize that a large dog is tearing around the side of the house. I have taken to whistling and calling out before venturing onto a fresh upper income lawn after a dog bite last spring left a small scar in my right calf.
While the husky barked and stalked the worn grass at the edge of his property, another larger dog barked menacingly from a back deck. I watched from across the street. This dog had been locked onto the deck for some reason, but both dogs were unattended. I took a last longing look at the large, set-back house and decided to call it a night. Just then, the larger dog burst from the deck.
He raced for the property's edge with a snarl that any living creature would recognize as ill-intentioned. Instinctively, I realized that this animal was not planning on stopping at the invisible fence, and was headed straight for where I stood, on the other side of the street. As his collar desperately beeped, warning him that he was drawing close to the underground wire that supposedly enclosed him, the giant rottweiler, easily weighing as much as myself, tore towards me with an intent to injure. I yelled for help, but the sterile darkness of the new suburban community muffled my cry. Buffered by libraries, home offices, and formal living rooms, nobody heard my desperate scream. This was going to be between me and the giant rottweiler. Beast versus beast.
The dog crossed the wire without pause. I raised the only weapon at my disposal, my clipboard, and prepared for battle. The dog moved so quickly that it seemed to surround me. Finally, it leapt for my face. Without thinking, I swung my clipboard across the side of its head. Thwack! The dog was stunned but enraged. It circled again, but then it suddenly seemed to notice the incessant beeping and shocking coming from its collar. Still threatening, it returned to the edge of its "fence" and resumed barking and stalking me. Terrified to cross past that house again, I cut through some woods and walked about ten minutes out of my way along the shoulder of a busy rural road.
Upon hearing the tale, my fellow canvassers high-fived me and offered to buy beers to celebrate. Nobody considered not going back out again tomorrow.
Forget stopping fracking. Forget pesticide-free playgrounds. On this night, I battled a more concrete foe. And won.
I don't ever want a desk job.