Why I Like Canvassing and Hate Busy Work

Lately I’ve been canvassing for a political group.  As part of my agreement with the group I can’t really divulge certain about them.  I don’t remember what is valid and what isn’t to discuss, so I’m just playing it safe.  This isn’t because I’m doing anything particularly secretive or important, it is just that we handle voter information.  It is a progressive group that works on political issues from campaigns to things that are more along the lines of informing the public of what is going on in the community.

One thing I have found myself loving, to my complete surprise, is canvassing.  I definitely have strong introvert tendencies in my personality.  This does not mean that I am shy, or that I don’t like to be around people.  It is simply that being around people for an extended period of time requires work.  Whereas an extrovert gains energy from being in the mix with a group of people, I find myself wearing out after a couple hours.  I need a certain amount of reflective downtime each day to remain at the top of my game.

So a job where you are going house to house, talking to strangers for several hours, would not seem a natural fit for me.  But I have found that I enjoy it.  I usually only do it for about four hours at a time.  In the Texas summer heat, this is plenty, trust me.

First of all I’m not selling anything or raising money.  I’m simply talking to people about issues.  This is a key factor to not feeling like a piece of shite when you bother someone at their home.  I’ve been out on door to door sales and I lasted half a day.  (Before I basically told my boss that he was a chimp and that I would walk home, not realizing when I first moved to Austin how long a walk from Elgin was going to take.) I have gone out canvassing for money before and I lasted maybe two days.  That work is important and honorable in any political organization, as it is what keeps that organization rolling, but I didn’t like it.  I don’t like to bother people.  However, what I’m doing now is more like keeping people informed.  They can turn me away at the door, but it there loss, as I am providing what is more akin to a public service.  The last campaign I worked on didn’t even require me to take a side on the issue, just to inform people of what is going on.  We also only reach out to people that are at least leaning in our favor.

Anyway, I have always been interested in politics, not that I would ever run for office.  There are plenty of pictures that would have me immediately disqualified.  I also couldn’t lie about so many things that politicians have to, to become palatable to a large amount of people.  I mean more that I have interests that I would like to see this country become a more progressive place and I am interested in what it takes to make it so.

So I enjoy playing a small role in possibly helping to make my community a more progressive one.  I find that despite being an introvert, I don’t really mind talking to strangers face to face and every so often you are surprised when you come across someone that is highly informed and likable.  I have found that most people, especially middle class and lower class people, are almost to a person at least courteous and polite if not outwardly friendly.  In the richer neighborhoods one tends to meet more people that simply slam the door in your face.  Again, I’m not really pushing anything on people, only informing them, so when they slam a door in my face they are really just taking themselves out of the political conversation.

But I also just like the honest work of it.  I like just being outside, walking several miles in the sun.  You have a certain number of houses to hit each day, and how hard your work depends on how quickly you get done.  I like jobs like that, that have a beginning and an end.  You have an electronic map and you can see the results of your work by the end of the day.  I used to mow fields on a tractor and whatever you think of a job like that, when you got done, things looked better than they did when you started.  This is opposed to so many other mundane jobs where the work never ends.  Nothing in this world, except death, sickness, and torture, might be worse than busy work.

We have almost all had bosses that want you to keep busy when there is nothing that really needs to be done.  I believe this comes out of their fear of losing control, that kind of micromanagement.  Or it could be they are just dickheads.  All busy work teaches one to do is to lean on a broom until the boss tuns the corner, stare intently at a computer and type something once in awhile until a boss can see your screen, and look for hiding places like the storage closet.  In fact busy work makes you become less productive, because you find yourself spending a large amount of time and energy learning how to fool your boss.  I don’t believe most people mind working hard if there is some sense to it.  If you are a boss and you remove purpose from the work people are doing, most workers will probably metaphorically shank you in the back.  I don’t mind working hard, I just want to know that there is some reason behind it other than looking busy.  There is no point working to keep up appearances.

Anyway, I have found canvassing, at least the kind I am doing, to be a good job.  It doesn’t pay a lot.  But if you want to do something positive for your community, get some exercise, and make a little money on the side, there are far worse ways to go.

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