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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Want my vote? Don't call at dinner


By Lee Cataluna

Six o'clock and the phone is ringing. Must be Charles Djou calling.

Lately, family dinner time is not complete without the phone survey or recorded message from one of the top three congressional candidates. The Costco pan of lasagna is hot out of the oven. The three-day-old pot of leftover stew (with potatoes now so cooked down they're the size of rice) is sitting on the table like an old friend. Mom put out a half-bottle of takuan and the rest of the KFC cole slaw from her office lunch for vegetables. Everything is ready, but there's no sense in sitting down yet until the round of robo-calls comes through.

One night it's Djou, then Colleen Hanabusa or Ed Case. Sometimes it's two in one night, or a call from the political party itself. Every once in awhile, there's a wild card, like Big Brothers Big Sisters hitting you up for old clothes or Neil Abercrombie trying to sound friendly.

There is no do-not-call list for politicians, though you can ask the caller not to call you back that is, if there is an actual human on the line rather than the recorded voice of a politician trying not to sound like a recorded voice.

Sometimes they're trying to tell you something, like why they put Hawai'i first or how it's important to "rock the vote." Many are the detailed survey or poll questions, and it takes a grace far beyond that of the average hungry, tired, would-be dinner-eater not to want to mess with the answers.

"First, let me ask you, on a scale from 'very excited,' 'somewhat excited,' 'somewhat not excited' and 'not excited,' how do you feel about the upcoming special election for Congress?"

Aw, yeah. You went and teed that one up for me, didn't ya?

"I'm excited. I'm very excited. I am so excited for the upcoming special election to Congress that I can barely sleep at night. Can't wait. Whoo-hoo."

"And of the three leading candidates, whom would you say you were most likely to vote for ... "

"Whoever doesn't call me during dinner."

Click.

There's only a small measure of satisfaction in the reverse-prank-call action. They don't give up and go away. The phone will keep ringing until May 22, and each call will have that underlying note of fear: Please say you're voting for me. Please?

It just seems funny that in the age of text-voting to "American Idol," online comments that anchors read during the evening news and Facebook fan pages, that an old-fashioned phone call during dinner is still the best way politicians have to figure out how badly they're losing.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172.