Rices Market is huge. People drive an hour and a half, two hours, from Jersey, Delaware, the poconos to get there. And Tuesday morning is the busy day. Thousands of people come. So I got there early, and backed up my car behind the table I'd been assigned to. I put my sign on it. I used one of those foam core ones which have folding sides, so they stand up. I picked it up at Staples for under $10.
The sign, about four feet high and four feet wide with some messages I'd printed out in 72 point bold font on my printer, was very light, and I was worried about wind, so I brought two ten pound dumbells I borrowed from my son to hold it in place, and used a bunch of packing tape to tape it to the wood table. (It worked reasonably well until a strong gust blew it off about five hours later) I had two yard signs I put in front of the table.
Then I put out my literature and waited. The folks in the tables nearby said that the real crowd arrived at around 9:00 AM, after the Moms have gotten their kids off to school.
They were right, Hardly anyone came by until after 9:00 AM.
That's about when Janis, another volunteer, arrived with her husband Tom. I had put out the word on a listserve that I'd get the table and set things up early if someone else would help work it with me. It ended up I knew Janis from her work with the Coalition for Voting Integrity.
They came bearing more literature, more signs, some bright colored blank sign cardboard and lots of enthusiasm. Almost as soon as they arrived (Janis had to wait until she got HER kids off to school) the traffic started picking up. We waited for people to come to the table, smiled at them when they passed, and very little was actually happening. I'd already checked out the next aisle of tables over from ours. They were closer to the parking lot. There were literally 30 times more people walking past a single spot in a two minute period.
Before Janis and Tom had arrived, I must confess I was being very wimpy, not reaching out to anyone. Pairing up with an activist partner seemed to get my juices going. I also was feeling that she would seem less threatening to women than I would, being a big guy, a stranger, walking up to them. But after she started approaching people, and another group of people would come by while she was talking to the first group, I started getting more outgoing, saying hi, asking them if they were Democrats. My initial shyness seemed to melt away and it got easier fast.
"Are you a registered Democrat?" I asked some young women. I knew, from the poll I ran in January that women, people under 25 and people over 70 were the most likely supporters.
But there just weren't that many people coming down our aisle, especially compared to the next aisle, 15 yards over.
I approached a few more people passing our table, handed out a few flyers, started getting my thirty second and one minute pitch down, and then decided it was time to take off and start walking. I felt okay walking around the market approaching people because I HAD paid for a table and had a receipt. I wasn't just "poaching."
The busy aisle was much, much more busy and crowded. I decided it would not be cool to go up to people who were shopping at a table. It would annoy the vendors. And it would not be cool to ask the vendors if they were democrats while there were customers at the booth. So I started going up to vendors who didn't have customers in their booth.
"Are you a registered Democrat in Pennsylvania?" I asked again and again.
I discovered that people selling plants, a lot of them farmers, were pretty uniformly NOT Democrats. People selling hand made crafts and jewelry, I had a better shot with. There were a lot of Asians and a few Latinos. Not one of them who I asked was registered to vote. Some said they were not citizens. After getting enough negatives, I gave up on them. A lot of the vendors said they weren't registered as Democrats or anything else. They didn't vote. It wasn't that surprising. It's mostly a cash business they do. I imagine some of them are trying to live as far under the radar and off the grid as possible. They're probably not paying taxes as well as not registered as a voter.
I also started asking clumps of people walking, not at a table, just going up to them, asking "Any of you a registered Democrat in Pennsylvania."
Most of the vendors and the people I approached were friendly, cordial. Most were not democrats, maybe one out of four or five were PA registered Dems. Some were from New Jersey, not more than ten minutes away. And remember this is a more rural than suburban area, across from a horse farm, in central bucks county. It's a fairly upscale area with loads of houses over $500,000 or even a million dollars and the average four bedroom single going for over $300,000 (near Lahaska, Peddlers Village, New Hope, Washington's Crossing and Solebury.) There are probably two or three Republicans for every Democrat out here. But I figured, even so, with thousands of people coming, it would be a good place to make loads of contacts.