There was a fairly consequential election last week. Wanting to do something, over the weekend and through Tuesday I phone banked for Biden and the Democrats’ Get Out the Vote campaign. For those four days I spent shifts calling voters in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Texas, encouraging supporters to vote and offering to help them find their polling place or make a voting plan. Most of my calls were to West Philly.
The majority of the people I talked to had already voted or were ready to do so. Quite a few people were frustrated and even angry about all of the calls. A few people were republicans, one of whom was not a real prick. Many of the people I spoke to, however, were friendly, grateful, and hopeful.
A lot of the people I reached were excited about the big day and happy to share their enthusiasm, including a campaign manager in Philadelphia. Some were a little more apprehensive and wanted to talk about how much the election meant to them. A dozen or so even needed my help, and I was thrilled to help them find their polling location and any other information they needed. But my very favorite interaction was with Lois.
Lois is 90-years-old, lives in West Philadelphia, and was my second to last call Monday evening, around 8:50 p.m. for her on the east coast. She quickly informed me that she did not need my help, but she was excited to share her plan.
“My neighbors are going to drive me right down the street, first thing in the morning,” she told me proudly. “I’ve got my ballot, I’ve got my bag packed, I’ve got my roller, and I have my folding chair, in case we have to wait in a long line.”
“I’ve been voting since the 1950s and I’ve never missed an election,” she said. “I’m ready to go vote him out of our house.”
I told her that she was an inspiration and must have seen some significant elections in her time. She replied that she remembered voting for Kennedy, and remembered her parents voting for FDR when she was growing up in the Catskills, “across the Hudson River from his home.”
Lois informed me that her church had linked up with other their denomination across seven states, and that day they had spent something like 6 hours joined in prayer. Together they asked that people would find kindness, let go of their anger, and vote to heal the country. She told me that it was important that America elect leaders who were good people again.
Lois thanked me for my efforts and I thanked her for her example, before she said goodbye and hung up to go to bed. She had big plans in the morning.
If you have ever wanted to do something easy to support a candidate or cause, beyond donating $15, I endorse phone banking. The bad interactions were brief, and you still get to help everyone by removing them from the list. The good interactions were longer and heartwarming, and you even get to help some people take action. That’s a bunch of wins.
Early Tuesday morning I saw a video going around of a 90 year old lady in southwest Philly dancing her way to the polls. I hoped it was Lois, it sure fit the picture in my mind; I later learned her name was Ms. Mildred, so perhaps not. If not, West Philly is apparently full of cool older ladies.
I spent the better part of the next 5 days watching Philadelphia on TV and often thought of Lois. West Philadelphia ended up being perhaps the most important community in the country this week, and they sure came through. Lois is awesome and she did it; they did it.
Saturday morning, after Pennsylvania was called and Biden was named President elect, my wife and I went out in San Diego. We live in North Park, where Black Lives Matter posters and Biden/Harris supporters are prevalent, we could hear shouting and honking horns out in the streets.
It reminded me of the tunnels in D.C. after a Capitals home win, full of horns blaring in a rhythmic call and response. We got in the car and drove out to join them, which turned out to be a great decision.
We found groups on every street corner, and pedestrians walking in between, waving flags and signs, and cheering. Others shouted and raised their hands or firsts in approval from al fresco dining areas as we drove by. We were enthralled and thought it only made sense to follow the calling cars down University to Hillcrest.
For those unfamiliar with San Diego, Hillcrest is a beautiful, vibrant, and hip community in San Diego, which is home to San Diego’s Pride Parade and fondly referred to as “the gay-borhood.” On the drive we witnessed an eruption of pure joy.
Not only did we pass continuous groups of revelers on the streets, we soon found ourselves in the heart of an impromptu motorcade parade. We drove from 30th Street down to 4th Street, immersed in a cacophony of joy and syncopated horns. The outpouring of happiness, love, and relief was palpable, energizing, and cathartic.
In honor of Pennsylvania, my Pittsburgh Steelers fan of a wife tucked her Terrible Towel to fly from the closed rear window. In honor of Philadelphia, and the enormous role which the City of Brotherly Love played in the securing the election and ending the Trump administration, she brought her Gritty t-shirt held it aloft like a banner. It featured the googly eyed Philadelphia Flyers mascot stating, “Fuck Trump,” and it was very popular.
Every time we stopped and at multiple slow downs in between people would shout, cheer, and run over to take pictures with the heroic monster she waved out the window. As a Washington sports fan, I have always viewed Philadelphia as the bad guys. The Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, and Flyers have all ruined numerous days and can go directly to hell–and that’s not even mentioning the Pittsburgh Penguins. But there’s no denying it: Pennsylvania came through in the clutch.
Philadelphia and Alleghany County sealed the win and the entire world broke into rapturous applause. Philadelphia most of all was our hero, perhaps not the hero we wanted, but the hero we desperately need right now. The people on the street in San Diego knew it and many of them recognized and adored Gritty. And everyone loved Philadelphia. I hope Lois feels proud and I hope she’s dancing.