Way back when I was 16, I landed my first non-family job. I'd spent about four years helping my dad with his switchboard answering service, and I'd helped my brothers off and on with their newspaper routes - rolling and rubberbanding newspapers before putting them into a big shoulder sling and tossing them into front yards from my bicycle.
My first real job was at a burger joint, and I was pretty good at drive-through, flipping burgers and cleaning the lobby. I also gave the best birthday parties in the whole county inside a refurbished caboose while dressed like a clown assistant.
One thing I was really bad at was front counter and suggestive selling, which was required. Oh, how I hated that. I hated when I had to endure restaurant employees suggestive selling to me, and I didn't like to do that to my customers. It often got me docked, but I never felt comfortable with the idea of talking people into something they don't want to buy.
So I should have known better than to volunteer at the (Independent Presidential Candidate) Evan McMullin booth at the Denver Botanical Gardens annual pumpkin festival.
I'd signed up to volunteer with the campaign the day we got back from our Pacific Northwest vacation. I create memes and help with social media. I can do that. I'm comfortable with that. And sometimes I'm even good at it.
When the call went out for volunteers to man the booth for an entire weekend, I initially contributed candy to be handed out to kids. That was another thing I could do and feel good about. Well, except for the sugar... But kids love sugar, and this time of year, well, even I like seeing the little kids get excited about costumes, jack-lanterns and candy.
Two days before the event, however, few volunteers stepped forward. It's difficult to give up a weekend, especially if you have kids, and most of the Colorado volunteers have families, I think.
I'd just read somewhere that you can't change opinions with your own opinions. The only way you can change opinions is with actions.
I have never been one to rant and rave about politics. Frankly, the topic typically turns my stomach. But this year, I believe America is in a world of trouble, and I felt so strongly about it, I decided I should do what I could to try to help because I just didn't like the main two options. At all!
I decided I should help with the booth because I would be showing instead of telling how much I care about the future of my country and the world I'm leaving for my grandchildren.
When all was said and done, if I had been a paid employee, I'd probably have been fired. (Other McMullin volunteers were more aggressive and confident than me, and they yielded much more success than I did.) After the first couple of rejections, I couldn't bring myself to initiate conversations anymore. I do okay when someone is really interested and asks questions. But I'm not good at forcing conversations upon people who want nothing to do with it.
The guy in the insulated window booth next door teased me and kept telling me I had to get out there and sell my candidate. To me, that's no different than trying to push a hamburger onto someone who doesn't want one.
They say about 30,000 people visited the pumpkin festival during the three-day fest. A mass blue and orange exodus left in a massive cloud of dust before the Broncos game started on Sunday, and we didn't get many customers after that. (Perhaps the football fans would have been happier that particular weekend watching orange pumpkins instead of orange jerseys. The home team lost.) (It was really cool to see the F-18s fly over four times while awaiting the game's national anthem!)
I don't know how many people I talked to, but I estimate about 20 on Saturday and about six on Sunday. Six people actually took flyers from me on Saturday. On Sunday, only three. But on Sunday, one voter anxiously signed up to help with the campaign and get on the email list.
I survived the ordeal by watching (and learning from) people's reactions. Thankfully, I didn't have any rude customers. Many were not interested, but everyone was respectful. Well, except for the woman who mouthed that we volunteers are crazy for thinking anyone can pull off a campaign in such a short time span.
Many people read the sign. They saw Evan McMullin's name. If nothing else, they read the sign. That's better than not seeing it at all.
Many people would make eye contact with me, then quickly turn their eyes away if I tried to smile at them. I took that as my cue to leave them alone. They came for pumpkins, not lectures.
Some people would ask who Evan McMullin is after reading the sign. I would tell them in a sentence or two. Most would nod and walk away. Again, at least the name is getting out there.
For those few who were truly interested, how exciting to tell them and watch their eyes light up. Several people told me they were already voting third party. We had some great discussions about this being the year of third parties. That was exhilarating. Changes are in the works. A revolution is slowly coming to a boil. Even though this year's election may not turn out the way I hope, I think the movement to fix what's broken has taken hold, and I think it's going to be amazingly successful in reshaping our system. I welcome it.
I've decided I won't volunteer in that capacity again because it's just not my cup of tea. I can help more effectively by donating what I do best... creativity and proofreading. I'll leave the suggestive selling to the true salespeople.
On the opposite side of us from the window guy was a tie dye spin artist. It was so much fun to watch the reactions of passers-by. People my age and older, the hippie generation, would admire and try on the colorful clothing. Teenagers would ooh and aah and comment, "Oh, I need to do some tie dye when I get home!"
Directly across from us was a crochet booth, catering mostly to little girls. I enjoyed watching young moms drool over cute little hats and dresses, thrilled that crochet is back in style.
Next to the crochet booth was a foster care group. I took particular interest in this booth because I was a therapeutic foster parent. If you think it's hard to recruit voters, just think how hard it would be to recruit foster parents!
I tried to see how many people signed up to be foster parents. Sadly and yet humorously, that booth had fewer customers than me. What tickled me is the volunteers (or employees or foster parents) in that booth weren't too worried about how many people were interested. They were completely content talking to each other and playing with their handheld devices. What a way to spend a weekend day!
When the event concluded, I helped clean up the booth, then found a vendor still selling food. I brought home two giant turkey legs for The Lizard and I for dinner, but I also managed to snap a few photos on my way back to my car. I'd never been to this particular venue before, although it's been on our bucket list because they put on one heck of a light show for Christmas. I'll bet the flowers aren't blooming then!