Monday, October 16, 2006

Clip this

You know that old saying about how, if you're not a liberal at 25, you have no heart, but if you're still a liberal at 35, you have no brain? Well, I can't really imagine any turn of events or life influences that would morph me into a Republican in the next three years, but I do wonder how my disdain for clipboard-toting door-knockers factors into my whole compassion level and how many more of them I can say "No" to before I can no longer be deemed on their side.

I used to feel for the Clipboard Kids. They'd come to my door and, internally, I'd applaud their idealism, their passion, their dedication to a cause. I never even felt comfortable selling Girl Scout cookies, and these kids manage to muster their courage and steel their pride while they knock on strangers' doors for money? Money with no promise of cookies in return? I mean, cookie sales are a win-win. Sure, I was trying to raise money to keep Camp Evelyn afloat, but it's not like I was offering nothing in return. There were cookies! People love cookies! Delicious peanut butter Tagalongs and refreshing, crispy Thin Mints? Who's going to say No to that? Frankly, I was doing my neighbors a favor by ringing their bell with order form in hand! And yet, I abhorred the whole experience. I certainly wasn't spending my college years reliving it with a clipboard in hand.

I realize that donating money to worthwhile causes should be more valuable and rewarding than cookies, but frankly, I am worn down. I care, I care; I really do care. I don't want the Alaskan wilderness ripped up to drill for what amounts to a teaspoon of our nation's giant bucket-sized oil consumption. I don't want a bunch of old, white men deciding what is right for a woman's body. I don't want children to be cold or hungry, here or anywhere else. I don't want Governor Pawlenty to get another four years to further muck up our state. But I just. can't. give. Not to every one of them. Not anymore.

Is it cold and heartless that tonight I turned away the long-haired, nose-ringed kid fighting to block Koch's planned oil pipeline in Minnesota? That, even when he stressed that any amount would help ("Seriously, anything you can give," he pleaded. "Your neighbor* joined at the basic $6 level..."), I still said, "Sorry; I can't help you right now" and sent him on his way? I actually tried to assuage my guilt when he left by theorizing that his whole clipboard racket was a scam. I've never heard of his organization; he probably made it up, I thought. Anyone with a computer and some basic word processing skills can create a sign-up sheet and stick it on a clipboard, right? Well, nope. Not in this case, anyway. Unless the Web site is fake, too (which, of course, now I'm entirely considering, you know), then so much for that theory, I guess.

The thing is, I do support these causes, and I give where and when I can (even if it just means they keep coming back for more, like the stray cat my neighbor** started feeding months ago and now won't go away). But my resentment over being guilted in my own home by a clipboard-toting twenty-something has somehow begun to outweigh my concern for their cause.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Lots of us hit the deck and kill the TV the second we hear the doorbell ring, because we assume whoever's on the other side has a pen and an envelope and wants us to make good use of both. Gone are the days of the drop-by visitor; our best friend could be out there with a bottle--nay, two bottles--of wine and a fresh pizza in hand, and we'd never know it unless she phoned to warn us first. And even then we wouldn't know, unless her name and number clearly displayed in the Caller ID box, because when the Clipboard Folks aren't trolling the neighborhood, they're calling us instead, which means we can't even answer the phone without taking some chances.

At least my reaction to the donation solicitation is generally guilt above all else. (I suspect being raised Catholic may have something to do with that, of course.) Plenty of people (Protestants, I'm sure***) just opt for clear-cut rage and annoyance instead. My good friend Amy is a generally mild-mannered and easy-going girl, but I have never heard a more angry rant out of her than I did the day TWO Clipboard People dared to ring her bell in the same afternoon. I have never seen her more enraged, and that includes the time she told me the whole story about why her no-good ex-boyfriend was so very no-good.

Maybe I should make a sign like Dooce's to keep the Clipboard Folks away. Or maybe if they'd just bring cookies. Maybe that would make it all OK. Positive reinforcement is everything, you know. A cookie for my cash is really the least they could provide.

* My neighbor the 31-year-old millionaire, by the way.
** Not the millionaire.
*** Kidding, of course. But you knew that, right?


3carnations said...

We have stopped opening the door to strangers, period. Really, when you don't know who's on the other side...We don't want any cookies,
we won't vote for you simply because you knock on our door and interrupt our dinner or our son's nap. We don't dive to the floor anymore, though. The other day I looked out the window as someone knocked. They glanced at the window at that exact moment, and we actually made EYE CONTACT. I thought "Oh shoot, he'll never leave now", but oddly enough he left more quickly than they usually do. I guess he figured if I was bold enough to look at him and not answer, there was no point in knocking again.

On an unrelated note, I despise getting pop-in visitors. I've been known to not answer the door to people I know who haven't called first. Not always, but sometimes...Depends on the time of day, my mood, and how messy my house is.

Maliavale said...

This happened at Andy's in D.C. once. Doorbell rang, kids with a clipboard stood nearby. He told me not to move a muscle and turned off the music. We waited. I sneezed. They saw me in the window.

Eventually, though, they went away. I don't understand, I guess, why we have to be quiet to make them go away. Can't we just go on and just not answer the door? They'll give up, and sooner than we expect. Also, doesn't turning OFF sound make it quite obvious that you're home?

I say we just ignore them, and when they look in the window to see if we're there, we just smile and wave and shake our heads. Take that!

stefanie said...

I agree with both of you; I need to get over the guilt and just ignore them. Malia, you're right about turning down the music being a dead giveaway, but maybe that's the hint to the knocker that you're not going to answer? Lately I've been rationalizing that perhaps I'm in my basement when they ring, and I didn't even hear it (despite the lights and the TV glow being a clear indicator that I'm home). Not that I honestly expect a door-knocker to think about it and come up with that explanation on their own...

guinnessgirl said...

Ugh. I hate that. Same with telephone fundraisers. I will never forget the Atlanta Museum of Art calling and asking me for money. When I said, "Oh, I'm sorry, it's just not feasible for me right now," the lady on the phone asked me why. Why!

Jamie said...

Stef, this is yet another reason I like living in a condo instead of a house: no front door solicitors! I don't even get trick-or-treaters, which actually makes me kind of sad. I still do get the phone solicitors, though, even though I only have a cell phone, as oppoosed to a land line. And don't even get me started on the GADS of email solicitations!

-R- said...

I don't mind the door-to-door people that much. I know I've written about them before, but I feel like it must be a sucky job, so I don't mind answering the door. Especially for political people because I think they must get yelled at a lot by my crazy across-the-street neighbors. But if someone asks for money or tries to convert me, I have NO problem saying no. I guess that's why I don't mind answering the door. H is a sucker who will buy anything though. I try to keep him away from the door at all times.

Your neighbor is a 31-year-old millionaire? He's not the one who has been charged with selling drugs illegally over the internet, I hope!

stefanie said...

GG--They're trained well, aren't they? The guy last night actually said that if funds were low right now, I could post-date the check and they won't cash it until next month. I said "No," Mister. No means no!

Jamie--So they don't call your phone from the front door? They just skip you guys entirely? Lucky girl... And I'm with you on the email stuff. I can't wait until the election is over. I've got Progressive organizations I didn't even know I signed up for sending me crap every single day. Argh.

R--I don't know anyone who's been charged with selling drugs over the Internet! Did you think you read that on my blog? (If it's a blog thing, it must be someone else's.) I actually wrote about the 31-year-old millionaire once (probably over a year ago now). I was going to link to it, but it was kind of a pathetic "I'm lame and directionless and I have no idea what I'm doing with my life" sort of post, so I didn't feel the need to draw attention to it. Suffice it to say I feel like a total lazy-ass around that guy.

-R- said...

No, there is some random guy in Minnesota who has been charged with selling prescription drugs over the internet. He became a millionaire before he got arrested. I guess he is not your neighbor though!

stefanie said...

Ah. Guess I haven't heard about that. (Or I did but just forgot.) In any case, he is not my neighbor. At least, I don't THINK he is!