More tales of canvassing


So Sunday I went out again to knock on doors for Barack Obama. (This is way outside my comfort zone, by the way. The fact that I'm doing it is a testimonial to my desperation.) The canvassing is very narrowly focused now-- it's pure GOTV from now until election day. We visit only those houses where the inhabitants 1) have been identified as potential Obama supporters, and 2) have a spotty record of showing up at the polls.

This time the packet I was handed was for the most difficult turf to canvass: a neighborhood between the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac River-- the richest enclave in my economically diverse precinct. It's mixed in a way: the houses vary from "funky crumbling grandeur" to pretentious new "estates". The neighborhood is oppressively overgrown with vegetation this time of year, giving it a distinctly southern feel here in "fake" Virginia. The greatest difficulty I had was in locating the houses: the whole enclave is like a Möbius strip of residential roads. The narrow streets loop and branch and curve around continuously. The logic of the numbering system escaped me. Some houses share private drives and some have their own--not their own driveway mind you, but their own private drive with a name like "Bluebird Lane". The streets are so narrow that at one point I had to back into a driveway to allow an approaching car to go by. I had a detailed map but still had to rely on the navigation system in my car to keep track of where I was.

As I said, the canvassing is narrowly focused now. Although I wandered around the neighborhood for more than an hour, I knocked on only ten doors. One house was inaccessible because the gated entrance was locked. Another house was deemed inaccessible by me because it was on a private road with "Private Drive; Turn Around; No Soliciting" signs posted on either side. Some of the houses had heavy iron knockers on imposing doors, others had intercom systems; I didn't realize until I came across the third of these that I had to press the "call" button to ring the doorbell. Some of the houses had security cameras above the front doors and I suspect the residents didn't bother to answer when they saw my clipboard and Obama sticker. Some probably didn't answer simply because the Redskins game was on. Of the ten doors on which I knocked, only one was answered. The woman who answered claimed she wouldn't decide whom to vote for until she walked into the voting booth. I didn't believe her, but I smiled and asked if she'd like a Warner/Obama flyer. She took it politely. I left flyers tucked in the doors of seven houses; there were already Warner/Obama flyers tucked in the doors of the other two.

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