Say Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime ?

Before I retired, I compiled a list of all the things I would or wouldn’t do once I retired.  For example :

1 – When I’m shopping and run into someone I know, I won’t block the aisle while discussing something I could take outside.  If our discussion is that important, I’ll set up a meeting time elsewhere.  Besides, if I haven’t seen this guy’s sorry ass in four months … how could I honestly say I give a damn ?

2 – When I’m slowly cruising the backroads in search of trails or foragables, and someone comes up behind me, I’ll immediately get out of the way without uttering unfair epithets under my breath.

3 – I will never express an opinion, nor give unsolicited advice to younger people about anything.

4 – I won’t shop on the week-ends as they’re the only 2 days of the week that working people can shop. They don’t need me in their way, when I’ve got all the other days of the week to do my shopping.

There’s many, many more, but I stopped at that last one as it has a double advantage that I hadn’t noticed until I retired … and promptly broke my own rule.  Yes, I sometimes hit the grocery store on a week-end.  The few times I’ve committed this transgression, I’ve paid for it in spades.  Can someone please confirm that there are more panhandlers hovering outside retail outlets on week-ends than there used to be, say, three years ago ?   Also, are there more cashiers trying to shame, embarrass, or otherwise make you look like a nazi war criminal, and feel like a kitten-drowning deviant if you don’t contribute to the store manager’s chosen charity for the week as you stand, captive and centered out, at the head of the line ?  Right there with all those people standing there watching to see if you deserve to someday be buried in a Christian grave, or just tossed into the ditch amongst the Tim Horton cups and the Molson Canadian beer cans.

I had this crazy idea that I’d be appreciated for spending my money for goods and services rendered, at said retail outlets.  I thought the management of said outlets would want me to return to their places of business.   But I found that assumption sadly lacking, when I had to run a gauntlet of panhandlers with a frickin’ school bus no less (no sh!t, I’m serious, they had a frickin’ school bus right at the doors), outside my grocery store recently.  Some MILSUSTH chased me into the store while assuring me she’d have the bus full of food (or some damned thing) by day’s end.  What’s a MILSUSTH ?  It’s kinda like a MILF except, she’s a Mother I’d Like to Swat Up Side The Head.  I said something like “Yeah, OK well, good luck with that” and made my escape.  The wife got all embarrassed about it, but I was like, “Get this hairy monkey off my back eh ?” The trick here is to shop on weekdays, or evenings.  All that crap and those whack-jobs, aren’t there during the week.  So that particular rule works out well for me.

If I want to contribute to a particular charity, I will.  I believe being harassed for money is exactly that … harassment, and it makes no difference what it’s for.  I used to get harassed regularly for money at my workplace.  It was assumed I was wealthy since both the wife and I were in management, and we had no children.  This one particular girl used to come to me constantly with all manner of charitable requests.  I didn’t mind it for awhile, but then it started to get ridiculous so I tried turning her down.  She responded with “But it’s a good cause” and that worked a couple more times.  Then I came up with an idea.  I made up some bogus contribution sheets for some equally bogus charities, and put them in my desk drawer.  The next time she came sauntering in behind me, I handed her the sheets and told her I’d contribute to her charity, dollar-for-dollar, as she’d contribute to mine.  She stood there trying to think of a way out of it.  Then she realized what was going on and saw her escape.  She pointed out that if we contributed dollar-for-dollar to each other’s charity, it’d be like us contributing to our own.   “Yes, I suppose that’s right” I said, then asked “So, what shall we put ourselves down for?”  “Ummmm five bucks ?” she suggested with a weak smile. I agreed, and she never approached me again.

Don’t get me wrong, the wife and I have made charitable contributions that would straighten yer naturally curly hair back in our working days.  But we’re on a fixed income now, and only have a few decades left.  The truly sick answer to that is charities now tastefully urge you to bequeath your estate to them.  How very thoughtful.  That’s rather akin to the mail requests we get with pre-determined denomination check boxes starting at $100.

A few years ago, just out of interest, the wife kept a tally of charitable requests we got by mail for a period of one year.  The following data is just from snail mail.  It does not include phone solicitation, door knockers, harassment on the street, workplace, or at the entrances of business establishments. In a one year period, we received requests, by mail, from 70 different charities of which, 45 sent multiple requests.   While the average was three requests per year, the annual frequency varied from 1 to 11 times per year.  We received “gifts” aimed at procuring our contributions in the form of pens, calendars, jewellery, greeting cards, note pads, address labels, Christmas ornaments, wrapping paper, coins, and vegetative seeds.

Of those seventy charities, my favourite (under the category of “are you f**king kidding me ?”), was one supporting “The families of victims of incarceration”.  Victims of incarceration ?  That couldn’t possibly mean convicted criminals could it ?  Why, yes it did !  My favourite money requesting charity (under the category of “now that’s something I’ll give money to”), was a coalition of neighbours on Vancouver Island trying to maintain the population of a rare marmot (a big furry harmless rodent who never robbed, stabbed, nor shot anyone causing them to become a victim of incarceration).

Oddly enough, the one charity I will always support is the Salvation Army.  I say “oddly” because it’s a religious organization, and I usually find religious organizations to be as self-serving as any big business with a six figure salaried CEO as well. When a charity becomes a multi-million dollar corporation, I begin to seriously question it’s motives.  The reason I like the Sally-Ann is because they’ll be on every street corner, and at the door of every retail business, but they won’t make direct eye contact unless you drop something into their bucket.  Then and only then, will they look into your eyes and sincerely thank you.  No pressure, intimidation, guilt-tripping, shaming, dirty tricks, stupid tactics, nothing like that.  As an added bonus … they’ll use the money to help anyone who needs it regardless of religious or political affiliations.

Another organization I will contribute to is the local military cadets.  I figure they’re learning discipline, which the entire population of this sorry rock needs alot more of.  As well, they’re usually standing at near attention and avoiding eye contact unless you approach them (just like the Sally-Ann).  If nothing else, I figure if they’re standing at the entrance of a retail outlet, they’re not out vandalizing my property.

Then there’s always the scam involving a local newspaper.  A local newspaper which we don’t subscribe to, nor have any use for.  It’s “delivered” once a week to every household in town whether you want it or not.  Delivered means a car goes racing down the street as papers are flung out of the window into snowy driveways where they disappear. Finding them with a snowblower is a whole new treat !  In the Summer, it’s generally thrown in the nearest puddle or under your car.  The publisher of this newspaper/60 page advertisement, then sends out kids to “collect” for this paper.  Remember the “windshield washer” kids of Toronto a few years back ?  Expecting payment for a service not asked for ?  ‘Course, if you choose to pay (they inform you that it’s strictly voluntary), you could win a prize !  I don’t want a prize any more than I want the paper, and even less than I want to be harassed by some kid pounding on my door looking for money for something I didn’t ask for.

As for the stores, why do they do it at all ? I avoid stores when I see patrons lined up trying to get past the panhandlers that the store management welcomes in.  That seems rather counter-productive to me.  Is it to score points for good corporate citizenship ? That might be it.  It makes a corporation look heroic when they make a charitable contribution in the millions of dollars.  However, that contribution isn’t that corporation’s money.  It’s their railroaded customer’s money.  I also understand there’s a tax credit for charitable contributions which would go to the corporation, I assume.  I find it particularly clever when a corporation collects money for a charity that exists because that same corporation charges too much for their wares.  Why make a real contribution by reducing your prices, when you can push your customers into giving you their money for which you’ll get the tax credit, and just plain credit for, in support of a charity that makes your wares affordable to … your … customers ?  It’s truly brilliant, really.

Aww, I guess I’ve always been suspicious of big corporations or governments who try to tell me what I oughta do with my money.  Somehow, I just question whether they really have my best interests in mind.

I’m funny that way.



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