Last week I volunteered to help with a school fundraiser, which placed me on the sidewalk with a table and an empty jar outside the Montecito Vons grocery store from noon to 2:00 p.m. last Friday. And Saturday.
You know how you try to avoid eye contact with people outside the grocery store collecting spare change to help teens stay off drugs/selling $2.00 chocolate bars for Christ/silently awaiting your quarters so they can go buy a sandwich and a Mickey's Big Mouth? It wasn't like that. I had a little pair of scissors and I had to ask people if I could clip a special code off the bottom of their grocery receipt. If you bought certain items and then turned in that receipt code, Vons would donate 10% of the purchase price of those items to a school!
Yay! I don't want to steal your wallet!
So I wasn't even asking for money, and I didn't have some elaborate plan to reconstitute your X'ed out credit card number, I just needed about four seconds to explain the principle of my existence in such a manner that people would at least slow down, and then, when it became clear that I wasn't trying to sell them a box of Thin Mints, quickly retrieve the code from a slip of paper most of them were going to throw out anyway. But oh! it was a treat to observe how just the mild pressure of my presence at the door caused some peoples' gears to seize up.
Granted, some of them were Actual Weirdos, but most people just didn't want ANYONE TO BOTHER THEM. And I get that, of course. Of course I do, Jesus! I want nothing more than to be left alone as I walk to the car with my bags of bleach and duct tape.
Yet it is inevitable that at some point the universe turns on you and asks you to become the person you've avoided being all these years. And that person has a clipboard.
At first I took it kind of personally, the people who looked at me as though I were wielding a screwdriver and had asked to examine their pacemakers. My favorites were:
1. The elderly lady who pretended she didn't understand what language I was speaking, even after her nurse/maid/paid friend listened to me and tried to explain it to her, in English. Miss Haversham then explained through her friend in a shocked tone of voice that she knew no one at my school so there was no point giving my school any money. Even though I WASN'T ASKING FOR MONEY, WHATEVER, FUCK.
2. The burly guy who, just as I'd begun to speak, pushed off as hard as he could and rode on his cart all the way down the sidewalk and into the parking lot, wheee.
3. The lady with an armload of plastic bags who got so flustered with me watching her try to stuff them all into the special recycling bin that she finally just gave up and dumped them all on the sidewalk. As she ran away in her "THE CAT LIKES ME BEST" sweatshirt, she kept looking back at me, and I just stared at her trying to figure out if it was me or if she forgot her tinfoil hat in the car or what. About five minutes later she came back and sheepishly put all the bags in the bin and then hustled into the store, and I rewarded the completion of her mission by shouting, "I like your sweatshirt!" at her through the automatic doors. I got a little wave for that.
I was dreading going back the second day, naturally, but the parents' auxiliary doesn't take no for an answer. Well, they will if they have to, but they'd really rather not, especially from someone without a straight job, like me. I'm bad at saying no, especially as I was feeling guilty for not participating very much at Jackson's school apart from some occasional lunchtime spaghetti slinging.
Anyway, the two hours went pretty fast. Anything to keep my kid from having to go door to door selling cookie dough and dog shampoo.