Lightning, Thunder, and Tornados, Oh My!

My last day as a WPT canvasser came sooner than expected. I was hoping to work until Thursday and then take Friday and the weekend to get over this nasty chest cold I’ve had for two weeks now. However, deplorable working conditions and mismanagement forced my hand sooner. First off, my directors had sent me on callbacks for three days straight. Callbacks are when canvassers return to an area that has already been canvassed to try to talk to people who didn’t answer their door the first time around or the people who asked to be bothered another day. Since this means that most doors have already said no, we have to cover three times the space to have an adequate number of doors to knock on. Therefore, instead of just walking six miles a day, I had to walk ten. One day of callbacks a week is grueling. Three in a row is inhumane. Not to mention the fact that it had been in the mid to upper eighties all week and more humid than a sauna. Considering all of these factors, I was already thinking about moving up my departure to that very evening.

And that was before the tornados came.

Out of the blue I get a text from my mother that reads, “Are you at work right now? Tornados heading your way.” This of course alarms me, so I forward the information to my field manager, and look up any and all weather warnings for South-Central Wisconsin. Straight from the national weather service, I found a serve storm warning with a side note about “possible tornados.”

Shortly after I get a text back from my field manager, Diego, saying that he knew there was a bad storm coming, but that the storm was a half an hour out, so I should keep canvassing and just keep an eye on my phone. When I tell people this story, most people find that last part to be pretty alarming. There’s a storm coming! Why would you keep canvassing? Honestly, Diego was the most safety minded out of all of them. Most of the other managers won’t call it until the storm is a direct and imminent threat. One time I texted my field manager, Emma, that I had seen a bunch of lightning, and she told me to wait until the lightning got closer to us. Not more than ten minutes later the floodgates of heaven opened, and it was raining so hard, we couldn’t read the street signs to get back to the drop off point.

However, in this scenario, I got lucky. Not more than five minutes later, Diego texts us all that someone in the group saw lightning, so we were packing it in. I am so, so, so, so, soooo grateful for this, because I was at the second drop off location. This means that all three of the canvassers from the first location had to gather before they could drive to pick us up at the second drop off. This meant that Sam and I had to sit on the curb for ten minutes switching between anxiously looking at the radar and anxiously watching the ominously darkening clouds approach.

Once we got in the car, the serve storm warning had been upgraded to a tornado warning. There were multiple tornado sightings in Dane county, and many of them were a little too close for comfort. We drove to the nearest Walgreens to strategize, and pick up more coolant for Diego’s barely functioning vehicle. The last thing you want when you are trying to out run a tornado, is for your car to overheat.

Normally at night we have only one director on duty. That night we were lucky enough to have two. However, neither of them were answering their phones. Both of them were out canvassing that night. One’s phone was dead. The other just didn’t feel like answering apparently. We called them each five times to no avail. You would think that directors for outdoor canvassers would keep an eye on the weather. That they would, at the bare minimum, receive weather alerts in their phone so they could notify their crews to find shelter when there si severe weather. These directors couldn’t even be bothered to answer the phone after we had already found shelter for ourselves. Sam wanted to do the rational thing, and wait out the storm in our current shelter, but the storm wasn’t supposed to let up for over an hour, and the rest of us twenty-somethings weren’t about to wait around for some storm to come and go. We all hopped in the hatchback and drove not with navigation from GoogleMaps, but with each turn determined by what would take us further away from the storm. I watched on the radar as we rode just on the cusp of the approaching chaos. Two arms from the storm were slowing enclosing around us. It really didn’t look like we were going to be able to make it back to the office before the storm overtook us, but we made all the right turns, drove aggressively, and didn’t wait at a stoplight for anyone. You turning left? We’re going around.

We made it to the office just in time. As soon as we parked, the clouds dumped buckets of rain down on us. We ran to the Panera Bread, (because we were locked out of the office,) and settled down there with some bagels. Once halfway through said bagels, our director, Tom, decided to grace us with a phone call. We explained that there had been a tornado warning near us and that we had left turf to seek shelter. Tom’s first impulse, instead of congratulating Diego on his quick decision making and his ability to take charge in a dangerous situation, was to reprimand him for leaving turf without permission. Diego sighed, and explained, again, that there were (FUCKING) tornados near us, and that we tried to call Tom, but Tom didn’t answer his (FUCKING) phone. Tom then conceded, “Okay, fine. Where are you guys now anyway?” We explained our location, and Tom said he would be back to the office shortly to open up.

However, Tom did not let us in. Tom opened the door and fled upstairs. He did not bother to check that everyone was okay. He did not even apologize for being such a massive dickhole. That was it. That was the last straw. All day I had been toying with the idea of quitting just because of how hard they were working me that week, and the shitty weather, but that wasn’t what really pushed me over the edge. What REALLY pushed me over the edge was the sheer disregard for the safety and wellbeing of myself and my fellow canvassers. Honest to god, I don’t know how no one yet has been injured or killed given these terrible working conditions and the even worse management. One example of just how bad it was: Do you know what we are supposed to do if we run out of drinking water on turf? Any of our directors or field managers will tell you, “Ask one of your doors for water.” So let me get this straight. You want me to go up to a door, ask for money, and if that doesn’t work out I should beg them for life giving water? Sure. That’s the best course of action.

So, when the time finally came for my nightly debriefing, my heart was pounding in anticipation for my exit speech. I went through the motions of a normal debrief. Even though I made the most money of anyone in my crew, I had still made under quota and had to have a goal-oriented debrief. (When you raise above $300 they just say good job and let you leave as if the only way you made that much money was by not making a single mistake all night. ) I made up a list of all the things I “did wrong” that evening, just so that Tom come say that we would work on those things tomorrow and in the following week. And with that, Tom set me up perfectly for my final comment of the evening. It was such a thrill to finally say, “Actually, Tom, I won’t be working tomorrow or any other day for that matter. I quit.”

To my surprise, Tom looked more shocked than he ever did in my imagination. I really can’t believe he didn’t see this coming. I really haven’t given a flying shit about this job since I started my job search about a month ago. Granted, the directors seem to go out of their way to never actually get to know us. All we were to them was money, averages, and totals. Nothing more.

After Tom got over the initial shock, he asked, “Now? Right now? As in no notice or anything?”

I answered, “No.” But I was actually thinking, “Of course no notice you fucking asshat. You don’t deserve any notice given the way you treat your employees.”

He told me, “I hope you know this means we can’t give you any reference.”

I answered, “Yes. I understand that.” But I was actually thinking, “Why the Hell would I want a reference from you? A: I only had this job for two months. B: You guys obviously didn’t like me as an employee even during that short length of time.

He told me, “Okay, well just leave behind anything that’s not yours. The buttons and such.”

I answered, “Of course.” But I was actually thinking, “Goodbye forever asshole.” I left all three of my buttons in the coffee mug on his desk, and got the fuck out of there.

It was quite the eventful day.


PS- Pictured is the best thing I ever saw canvassing. It’s a yarn bombed tree! Just hanging out in the middle of some quiet little neighborhood. How cool is that?

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