I’m not panhandling! I’m holding a three ring binder!

I have reached a new historic high in grumpiness. The other day I found myself yelling at someone across one of the wide sidewalks in downtown Seattle. It didn’t happen just once in my little stroll, it happened three times. The first time was when a young lady dressed in a blue ACLU shirt and holding a three-ringed binder yelled to me, “Would you like to help gay rights?”

I yelled back, “No!” Now if I were walking down the street in the bible belt I might have gotten a bunch of slaps on the back, but in downtown Seattle that kind of attitude is not widely accepted. My son thought it was pretty funny because I sounded like a homophobic jerk, which for the record I am not.

Two blocks later it was a young man wearing a Save the Children shirt holding a three-ringed binder, “How would you like a tax break?”

Well, I would like a tax break, but I yelled at this poor young man anyway, “I would like a tax break, but I’m not going to give out my personal information to some stranger on the street holding a three-ringed binder.”  I’m sure he didn’t hear my whole rant because I didn’t slow down to give him the pleasure of my company.

Two blocks later I ran into a dancing three ringed binder guy, I don’t know what charity he was supposedly working for because he was dancing like he was at a Grateful Dead concert and all the spinning around made it hard to read his shirt, but this guy wanted a fist bump. I did not give him the pleasure of a fist bump, but I did give him a very angry look.

I don’t like these people. It isn’t that I don’t like them personally, it is that I don’t like what they are doing. I am certain that charities are looking for new ways to get money, but this is just stupid on multiple levels. The first time I ran into someone doing this guerrilla fund-raising was in London about ten years ago. She was wearing a green tunic with Oxfam printed boldly on it and I was still young and naïve enough to be interested in what she was doing on the street so I stopped and had a 30 minute discussion about her charity. They were trying to help homeless kids get off the streets and back in school. I like Oxfam, I think it is a great charity, but in the end I told her that I would not be giving her my credit card information. She was disappointed, but are there really people stupid enough to give a complete stranger their personal information just because they have a three ringed binder and a t-shirt? I can get a t-shirt made for about $10 and I could also print off lots of colored pages from websites to make me seem to be working for those organizations. I could even get a plastic badge made to look even more official.

Seattle, like many cities these days, has laws against aggressive panhandling. Homeless people are not allowed to loiter and  aggressively ask for money, but if you wear a t-shirt and dance around like you are on acid, you can be as aggressive as you want. Charities like the ACLU should know better. Are they really expecting people to give credit card information to complete strangers? I can’t imagine that this form of “fund-raising” is successful, and I can only imagine how personally damaging it is to the poor saps that have to deal with jerks like me. I felt bad for two whole blocks after I told the ACLU girl that I didn’t want to help gay rights, because I really do want to help with gay rights, I just don’t want to help Russian gangsters steal my credit card number and go an a vodka spending spree.

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