Day Four Canvassing and Why Sometimes You Don’t Need to Hear it’s Your Fault

Childish Innocence


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I’d rather not have another day in the field like I had yesterday. No, I am not grumpy nor am I bitter. I am, however, still a bit annoyed. Let me explain.


The day started around 345 and the weather was sweltering. Within 5 minutes I was sweating profusely, my pen had started to slowly leak onto my hands and I walked around until 6 pm without knowing about the smear of black across my cheek.


I went to approximately 90 houses and I was amazed at how, coming off of a couple nights of bringing back more dough than the rest of the office, I was hardly able to get a few people to say and listen to me. Some were downright insolent.


“I am NOT interested- AT ALL. BYE.” One woman said as she slammed the door shut and then very loudly locked it up, I think, just so I’d know she believed I was bad news.


“Go work for Jesus man.” Said one Duck Dynasty resembling, beardy old guy. “I aint giving you shit.”


Apart from the angry closers, there were many people who said, no, not right now, and they were very polite about it. They were, in fact, in the middle of dinner or taking their kids to football or simply having a quiet moment in the house after a long day of work. I hate that I am the one disrupting these people’s lives. But then again, the cause, which I still believe in my bones to be good. I also believe in the means, but not my role in them and we’ve talked about this before.


I met up with my trainer at a predetermined location and we did “stats analysis.” He began very kind about it, but then started pestering me with questions about what I was doing wrong.


“Is it the intro?”

“How’s your confidence?”

“You’ve kept is short and simple right?”

“Are you using time-sensitive words?”


To which I said, “I think it’s just this neighborhood. Everyone is busy and no one wants to talk.”


We were walking down the sidewalk and he stopped. Turned to me. Smirked. And then said, sharply:

“Never the neighborhood, always the canvasser.”


I stood there in my sweat-stained black shirt, my cheek still inked, feet stung with blisters and head hurting with dehydration and I wanted to toss the clipboard aside and throw down. This was the most exhausting day. I had been hustling around houses, receiving insult after insult, breaking up family dinners and quality time, and suddenly it was my problem. I wanted to quit yesterday- badly.


Again, I reminded myself, temporary.


I ended up making a few bucks by only begging people after they said no. Telling them I was new at this and completely going off script. Informing them of my unmet quota and need to please the bosses.


And here’s what I know about blame: Sometimes, yes, it is all my fault. Sometimes, I am too tired and excuse myself from trying. There are days when I fall short. You bet. Other days, the house just aint in the mood. People are busy making dinners, watching a movie, drinking with friends.


I marched up the porch to one glass door, it was late in the evening, and across the plane of the house I could see three women sitting in a room. The one in the middle was heaving heavy sobs and another was rubbing her shoulders while the other gently patted her hand. I stood there for a moment, so desperate to make my quota, that I actually considered knocking. I actually considered putting the possibility of a few bucks over this woman’s deeply vulnerable moment of god-knows-what tragedy. Thank God I left them in peace. Perhaps that’s the only blame I’ll take proudly. I didn’t ask for money in the middle of a meltdown.


My trainer ended up encouraging me at the hood of the suburban, saying that there are nights like this and all we can do is reflect about how we can do better. But I still felt I gave it my level best.


I went wordless, listless into the office that night. In the corner of the conference room, I sat quietly filling out my sheet, presenting my failure before the Gods of Clean Water. The boss of both the trainer and I came over to me excited, asking how the night went. I knew his excitement was based on the prior two nights in which I did exceptional, sending the office into applause at my potential as a canvasser.


“Uh, in a word, sucked.”


“It was a hot day, wasn’t it?” He asked, still standing in front of me. Still maintaining his cheer.


I stopped writing, looked up and said. “Yes. I was dehydrated and-and look at my shirt, sweat-stained, and look at my cheek, pen leaked. I was tired and felt uncomfortable and obviously, it must’ve impacted my try at the doors.”


He nodded pretty slowly, and after a moment said:


“Ya, you know, I remember when I first started canvassing neighborhoods and one extremely hot day, I was drenched and dehydrated and hated the whole thing. Also, it wasn’t completely my fault. People just weren’t interested and if they’re closed off at the beginning, there isn’t much you can do. Look at the board-“


He pointed up at my numbers, still starred for their greatness. I gave a more leveled out shrug.


“Days, like this happen. And it isn’t always something that you did.”


I’ll tell you what, I wanted to give this guy the biggest bear hug because that is exactly what I needed to hear. I needed someone who got it and told me about it and knew that a bit of guilt and shaming wasn’t going to do me no good. I needed someone to tell me, flat out, that I was good at this, because he could tell I had forgotten.


Some days we need water to keep us hydrated. A bit of shade to keep us from burning out. Sometimes a friendly canvasser that will let us work out our mourning without bothering us for a check and a signature.


And sometimes, even if they believe it was, we need someone to tell us it wasn’t our fault. Someone that will tell us that they believe so strongly in our strengths, that they know there had to be something about the heat, the lack of water, the lack of interest and just plain bad luck. Someone that will cap the day off with a good pat on the back and a thanks for trying and I know it’s hard, but let’s have fun tomorrow.


And that may have kept me from quitting.