Friday, October 29, 2004

Field Report - Philadelphia, PA

Culture Shock
As I've mentioned before, the transition from WV to PA was much harder than the transition from CA to WV. Shocking in itself. This is a nice city - I think, anyway, from what I've seen of it. Far from sampling the local culinary delights - I get most of my nutrition (if you can call it that) from, uh, Wendy's (baked potatoes and salad, only one cheeseburger in PA so far), Cosi, and some salad that appeared on my desk from somewhere yesterday. This morning, after passing them for days, I finally bought breakfast from a street vendor. Yummy. Egg, cheese, bacon, on a roll. Yeah, we're not so much going for health these days. All I want for Christmas is a personal trainer . . . .

Store highlights
Aside from the FNC, uh FNCW? (Fox News Channel Website) infiltrator, we deal with our daily schedule of crazed chum hunters. I've explained "chum" right? All those nifty bumper stickers, buttons, and signs you all want me to bring home? They keep me up nights. They haunt my dreams. They ruin my lunch. We had one lady literally hit another staffer today when he said she couldn't have anymore. Or the guy from a remaining-nameless organization of workers who came in, dropped the name of a staffer, and had loaded 500 (FIVE HUNDRED) assembled yard signs into his truck before I realized what was happening. Please remember, buttons don't win elections - if you're wearing one and just pinning it on makes you feel somehow proud, like you're doing something for the cause, you aren't. I left law school. You can walk a precinct - local race or whatever - go turn out the Dem vote. Geez, sorry for the sermon there. I'm quite tired . . . .

A few days ago, two women came into the store. They introduced themselves as animal rights activists and said they were protesting down the street but were taking a break and wanted to stop in. They wanted to register their disappointment that Kerry had shot a goose. My gut reaction was "he killed something? That's FANTASTIC! How big was it? Can we get him to take out something with antlers? A herd, perhaps?" But, remembering that I was no longer in West Virginia, I maintained composure, and said, I know, I love animals too. I also tried, gently, to explain that sometimes, the good of, you know, like, people (soldiers, 18 year olds in Iraq, those dying from diseases stem cell research could help) had to come before our animal friends. They just wanted me to know that they were still voting for him, but were dreaming of the day that they could have a true animal rights candidate. If I'd had a Jake Zimmerman card, I'd have given it to them. Perhaps that would've been bad. (CMCers of a certain vintage know what I'm talking about).

We have many messages pass through our office. How to run the campaign better. Just let whomever know, whom can let John Kerry know, this following bit of strategy that will win this campaign in 20 minutes. Part of me wants to thank them for thinking I - the girl in the chum t-shirt (that's all we got left - that and some business suits) and jeans - have a direct line to JK. Part of me thinks they are a little sad. But that's not really fair or true. I guess, in a way, it's kinda nice - this is the party of the people, and especially now, it seems, people take a lot of ownership in what's going on. Yeah, at a certain point in the afternoon before I've had my late day grande (skim, thank you) hot chai, I want them to shut the hell up and just walk a goddam precinct already, but really, you can't fault them for trying to be helpful.

You can, however, fault the volunteers who say they will do x task and then just don't do it - spending precious time instead asking questions about things that have no bearing on the assignment at hand or running around gathering more assignments until they can't do anything effectively at all. Those people drive me up the crepe-papered and postered walls.

Power, Politics, and Pennsylvania
When I arrived in Philadelphia a frighteningly few number of days ago, I barely knew my boss's name. Now, while I know his name, I really know very little about him. Or anyone, for that matter. Staff rains from the sky here - and while my week and a half makes me almost senior, or at least advanced, it makes me no more learned on my coworkers qualifications, non-campaign lives, or life stories.

This is both a blessing and the recipe for managerial disaster.

On the bright side - I'm not intimidated by anyone. I'm respectful, sure, but if you're super important in your other life and you think you can cheat me out of chum, pull some unfair crap, etc, I don't have a problem saying no. And I don't worry about talking to "bigwigs" because I don't know who they are.

The drawbacks are obvious: sometimes I do say no to people who really aren't supposed to hear no from anyone. But that's infrequently the case.

Today, a rather well known woman from the Clinton area was in the store asking for signs for an event. I noticed I hopped to it a bit quicker because she was who she was. The reality, however, was that she was just another staffer with a badge who needed more signs than she was going to get. She was, however, nice about it. That's not a general rule (though few denied what the need need need are rude to me directly. They know they can jump rank and get things in short order - which is fine).

The more serious consequence, however, of not knowing your coworkers' stories - even a little - is that every so often, no matter how passionate someone is about getting Our Guy elected, they have a moment of "wait a minute, I'm a [insert legitimately tough, smarts-requiring, high profile job here], what the hell am I doing dealing with this [broken copier, infantile intern, younger-than-me-supervisor, new arrival upstart, general snafu]?" Then that inner Type A, or CEO or super high paid consultant - the business shark, the legal eagle, the guru - comes bursting forth from inside. The result is usually an epic battle of egos that lets loose a flood of swearing, harshly placed stacks of paper, perhaps a few slammed doors, and general dances of "no I'm the bigger Indian Chief." There were fewer Personalities to manage in West Virginia, but this is a much higher profile state at a much later stage in the game. But things are calming here too. The ego-plotions are fewer, shorter, and less heated than they were even 36 hours ago. The team is forming, getting past all the crap, and remembering why they tried to check the egos at the door to being with.

The energy rises, the volunteers arrive, the dry-runs run tomorrow, and I hope hope arrives in four days.

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