July 25, 2006 psipsina

I have a lunchtime meeting, I’m in a rush, I hop out of the office quickly at 11:45 to grab a salad, and as I’m walking down St. James Street, I see them lingering just outside the Au Bon Pain:

Two earnest young men in MASSPIRG T-shirts.

I hate being canvassed, don’t ask me why.  I haven’t analyzed it; I just find it intrusive, I guess.  It doesn’t matter if I agree with the cause or not.  I hate someone taking up my time, and I hate being put on the spot for a donation.  I give plenty of money to charity, but it’s charities that I’ve carefully chosen, not ones that accost me on the street.  Plus, PIRG stands for Public Interest Research Group, and although I am generally sympathetic with MASSPIRG’s aims, I am always suspicious of people who believe they have the public interest at heart.  The public interest is an extremely complex thing, and I’m sure these 20-year-old college students, with the typical 20-something’s earnestness, have no idea what a complicated thing public interest is.

When faced with a canvasser, the only effective strategy is to use other pedestrians as a shield, by maneuvering so there are at least 3 other pedestrians between you and the nice young men with clipboards.  There was no one else on the street, so my only remaining strategy, weak though it was, was to speed up to about four and a half miles an hour (nearly a jog) while simultaneously turning my head so as to avoid making eye contact.

I swear, one of them LEAPED out in front of me.  “Excuse me, ma’am …” he began.

“You know, if I’d gone any further out of my way to avoid eye contact,” I said, “I would’ve broken my neck.  Shouldn’t that be your signal that I can’t or don’t want to talk to you?”

He mumbled some sort of apology as I hurried on.

I mean, I know they’re supposed to be aggressive, but this is ridiculous.


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