Paul Wolber: Phone Banking

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Paul Wolber has been phone banking this election season and he hasn’t been connecting just with voters, but also with people struggling in difficult times.

During the last two national election cycles, I’ve volunteered as a door-to-door canvasser. But that’s not an option for me during COVID times, so instead I’ve been working phone banks, mostly in Iowa. I have found the experience sobering. While I rarely have to endure the rude responses that my wife sometimes receives as a volunteer texter, I do have to process connections that are more personal than expected.

I have spoken to the relatives and spouses of voters who are deceased. I can feel how my call is salt poured into an old wound. I apologize profusely and correct the contact list. I have spoken with a voter who lost his job in the pandemic and was about to become homeless. I have spoken with a voter who was obviously ill and who told me she was fighting COVID. I’ve reached elderly citizens trying to vote via an undependable Postal Service in the midst of a pandemic. I have spoken with a voter who was trying to repair the damage that the Iowa derecho storm winds inflicted on two houses he owns. He asked me where I was calling from. I told him I lived in Napa, about 10 miles south of the edge of the Glass Fire. We agreed that every state has its own special versions of natural disasters.

In the midst of this I’ve also done what I volunteered to do: urging and helping people to vote. But sometimes I feel like an old-time postman performing occasional welfare checks as I do my job. The experience has taught me that there is currently much pain in the U.S. We need to treat each other better and we have a lot of healing to do, no matter who wins.

With a Perspective, I’m Paul Wolber.


Paul Wolber is a scientist and technical manager in Silicon Valley's biotech industry.