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Rap or Run: Going Door to Door for Greenpeace in LA

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I've had some frustrating jobs in the past--mostly in retail--but there is nothing quite like the pain and humiliation of stumping for a cause and a minimum wage paycheck. When I was a mere young'un, at 18, I spent six months working as a door-to-door canvasser for Greenpeace. Yes, I was one of those annoying neo-hippie crusader types (mind you, I bathed and shaved and did not spread any funk, unlike some of my crystal-gazing coworkers) who rang your doorbell at dinner time, carried a clipboard emblazoned with "Save the __________!" stickers, and asked you for money. Even then, if I'd come to my own door I'd have hated me too.

Working for an often radical group like Greenpeace had a surprisingly rigid and almost corporate feel to it. We all drew a base salary (I would probably be ashamed to admit what it was in 1995, if I still remembered it) but were required to fill a quota of financial support each week. Every night a manager would map out our individual "turf" and give us photocopies of the area from the Thomas Guide marked up with our designated streets. We also were given cards that listed past donors, and were urged to hit them up first for renewals. This was by no means a guaranteed strategy to make quota; many times the past donor listed had moved, had abandoned their do-gooding attitude, or, in the worst case, were dead. I'll tell you, there is nothing like knocking on a door and asking for Mrs. So-and-so, only to be informed by a still-grieving widower that his wife was no longer with us. But that was just one reason why the gig was a nightmare.

Photo by jovike via Flickr