“Hi, this is Brenda calling on behalf of…”
I didn’t even let her finish before I started to talk over her well-rehearsed speech.
“Brenda, I hate to tell you this, but at this point in the campaign a phone call isn’t going to sway me to vote for your candidate. As a matter of fact, I’m keeping track of calls. Come Election Day, the candidate with the least number will get an extra checkmark on my PRO list. Thank you for calling.”
I know it was mean. Poor Brenda was just doing her job, just standing up for her candidate, just spreading the great word about him. But what about us? What about those of us who have been fielding calls like this for months now? At this point the news on the other end of the phone is just noise.
Brenda was at least a real person; anyone with a landline phone number has gotten robo-calls. If you think I’m mean to the Brendas, I’m foul to the robots.
You know the ones: someone famous, the spouse of or maybe even the candidate themselves calls with a pre-recorded message. What a nice personal touch, eh? Yes, let me stop and listen to this one sided speech that interrupted my dinner. That was sarcasm, by the way, but these calls bring out the worst in me. Between Rachel from Cardholder Services and any number of election-based calls, the robots have been bombarding my house.
I have yet to meet the person who can be influenced by a computerized call like this or thinks that they are effective. The distain is so universal that the FTC recently issued a $50,000 prize for the best technical solution to stopping them.
My technical solution? Scream into the receiver, “It’s not you! It sounds like you, but it’s not really yoooou!”
Why answer in the first place? I’m conditioned to answer the phone. Phone rings, I answer. 40-plus years of doing so is a hard habit to break. Waiting for the answering machine to pick up is five painful rings that still interrupt whatever I was doing. The caller ID isn’t always helpful, either. When I see a familiar area code, I think it’s someone I know but whose phone number I haven’t ever memorized: “Oh, no! Uncle Frank lives in 513, something must be wrong!”
Oh, something is wrong all right. I’m an idiot.
And the negative campaign ads? Every election year I hear complaints about the negative ads, and yet every election year they are back. The people must have spoken at the polls that this type of campaigning is successful because my mailbox and TV screen are full of it.
I know that there is a segment of the population that lives for this stuff. The debates, the conversations, the rebuttals — they love it and are sad when it ends. They participate in the campaign process with zeal and enthusiasm. It’s their thing and they are never happier than during a big election year like this one.
Then there is my segment of the population. The quiet ones, the ones who are ready for it to be over now . We have listened and read anything that didn’t come in the form of an advertisement. We have calmly discussed with people who think differently than we do to see all the angles. We have made up our minds. No yard sign, ad or phone call made that decision, and no yard sign, ad or phone call is going to change it.
The really great part? We all get the same number of votes.
For more of Susan Vollenweider’s writing, go thehistorychicks.com.