It was purely circumstance that found me at Obama Campaigns Florida HQ with a staff badge on my chest.
It was proximity – my apartment was just miles from the Ybor, Tampa office. It was timing – I had just walked away from my job as a catchall web handy man at a small eCommerce site. And it was probably a little desperation on their end – when my boss hit send on that initial email at 2 in the morning the sound she heard was the scrapping of the bottom of the barrel.
But mostly it was my hand-me-down Lenovo Thinkpad laptop. That’s the only explanation that makes any sense.
See, when I showed up at the office to just volunteer (the same day as that email, and a mere four hours after a short phone conversation) I did what just about everyone does first – I hit the phones, making call after call after call. Recruiting more volunteers for some new program.
On some staff iPhone somewhere is a photo of me, phone in hand, placing the first call of the program. And if it looks like I didn’t quite know what I was doing, well, it was because I didn’t quite know what I was doing.
In front of me in that photo is my brother John’s old Thinkpad laptop. I brought it with me to record call data in a google spreadsheet. Part of the casing around the screen was cracked and being held together by scotch tape, and the battery life was somewhere around 27 minutes fully charged. But it got the job done.
And as coincidence would have it, it looked quite similar to the newer model Thinkpad that the campaign handed out to staff members.
As a volunteer, I showed up early and worked late. I sat where I could find space – sometimes in the walkway, sometimes out on the office balcony. And with so much going on, with people coming into HQ and people heading out, and with everyone too busy to wonder who I was and what I was doing, and that laptop sitting in front of me – I don’t know, maybe I didn’t look like a schmuck with no idea what he was doing. So when I said I could to do something – like stumble through managing the programs small MySQL database (after the big step up from the Google Spreadsheet) – they actually let me. And things just went from there. I mean, I was showing up there. I might as well do something, right?
Who knows? Maybe they just needed warm bodies at that point. But when I got the offer to come on as staff it opened to door to work around unbelievably awesome people. And to, on election night at some firehall in Jacksonville after having been up for 40 straight hours, be able to (unofficially) celebrate Florida’s crucial 29 electoral votes going to the President. And I can’t help but think it was mostly my second-hand taped up laptop that got me there.