Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 25, 2008

Life in Civic: A nature documentary

Filed under: news of the day — lexifab @ 12:40 pm

I’m used to getting to work around 8 or 8:30. Today I slinked in at a quarter past 10, hoping nobody would notice. Apart from the cruel damage that late arrivals and early departures are doing to my banked flex hours, it’s a pain in the arse walking to work so late, because it’s generally started to get hot by that time.

This morning there was the added disadvantage that the usual early morning pre-work crowds had thinned out by the time I arrived, allowing the predatory charity jackals to single me out and bring me down. Anyone who has spent any time in the civic centre of any city knows who I’m talking about – packs of young people with clipboards prowling the main thoroughfares, hunting for donations to a bewildering array of (admittedly worthy) charitable causes.

It’s somewhat uncharitable, but I really dislike these guys, the way I dislike all fast-talking salesmen with their uninterruptible spiels and their interposing-but-not-quite-hostile body language. The guy I ran into this morning – no, wait, he ran into me, spotting me a mile off and cutting across on an intercept course that would have made George Gregan beam with pride – was a typical specimen; friendly, enthusiastic, earnest, self-confident. Horrific, really. He started talking and grinning and sympathisizing with how late I was (I really was, more than an hour late, it wasn’t just a line, dammit, but did that matter to the Chariterminator? Not visibly). He talked about The Problem (I’ll not single out the specific charity here – they’re all interchangeable at this level in any case), he pointed to pictures of People Suffering, he implied that a Solution is Just Around the Corner. He also appealed to my sense of national pride, which was a tactical error practically guaranteed to get my globalism-loving dander up, but on this occasion he got away with it. Then he presented the clipboard, bedecked in donor authorisation forms (carbon copies ahoy!), and before I knew what I was doing there was my signature alongside my modest monthly contribution to The Cause.

I’ll own up – at the best of times I am a complete pushover. I loathe the fact that despite being wholly aware of each and every item on the high pressure sales technique checklist being rolled out and launched at me  – the relentless eye contact, the non-aggressive assertiveness, the nigh-imperceptibly critical comparisons with the cost of a cup of coffee, the reassuring implication that I was personally ensuring a Solution despite the Issue being essentially irresolvable – I still caved and signed up. All the while I waited for my opportunity to interject that I was not interested (true), already make regular donations to other charities (true) and was not in possession of a credit card (false, but surely would have been worth a try) , I missed my moment somehow. I found it somehow impossible to stand up for myself, to enact my plan to politely but forcefully refuse and extract myself with good grace. It didn’t seem right to resort to rudeness, which I would have had to conjure from nowhere as there was a curious lack of feeling irritation or impatience. To my bewilderment, the only other option seems to have been to sign on for a monthly tithe. It didn’t even occur to me until later that there was nothing to stop me inventing a completely false identity.

If my wife had been there, he’d have gotten about four words out before collapsing to the ground clutching his groin (at least, that’s the way I picture it after the humilations of the morning). Unfortunately, away from the pack alpha, wishy-washy helpless herd animals like me are easy pickings, easily brought down and messily consumed by ravening predators perfectly tuned by nature to separate me from my twenty bucks a month.



  1. It’s not easy being us, the hapless wildebeests in the nature documentaries…

    Actually, this post ties very neatly to where I wanted to go about your core principle of minimising suffering.

    Any Problem primarily involving People Suffering has three parts:

    (i) The suffering directly experienced by the People Suffering

    (ii) The indirect suffering of those people’s friends

    (iii) The more indirect emotional suffering of those of us who are told about the Problem.

    Telling people about Problems they probably can’t solve is therefore evil, because it increase suffering (iii).
    People with Problems shouldn’t have friends, because this increases suffering (ii).

    Therefore, we should hush up the Problem (eliminating iii) and demonise the People Suffering (reducing ii)as a prelude to painlessly euthanising them (eliminating i).

    I suggest you try this line of argument on the next Chariterminator that crosses your path. 😉

    Comment by Dr Clam — January 25, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

  2. This is why I rarely employ logic as an analytical tool. But I have to agree that it does make a surprisingly effective blunt instrument 🙂

    Comment by lexifab — January 25, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  3. Ah, the joy of chuggers. They infest the street near one of my places of work too. “No I don’t want to feed the poor/help the aged/free the prisoners, I just want to get some bloody lunch”.

    Comment by Alix's Dave — January 25, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

  4. Like a foolish little whale, about oooh, 9 years ago almost exactly, we found ourselves stranded, or perhaps beached, washed up either way in A Big City (Melbourne) and in dire need of funds. Having lived a relatively innocent life until that time (innocent of the ways of the Chariterminator at any rate) we did foolishly answer the ad in the paper wot said a Respectable Charity (with something to do with whales: we like whales) needs fund raisers.

    It did not say “Chariterminators”.
    Nor did it say “previous experience as dodgy used car salesperson will be viewed favourably”.
    It should have.

    I believe that the resignation speech I (u.i.l.*) delivered fervantly after my first and only shift of street slogging made use of the term “unsustainable” at least five times.
    Hypocrisy also got a mention.
    And there was a passionate debunking of the whole ‘ends justifies means’ fallacy as well as some spurious references to Stalin.
    Also I may have invented the term “charity fatigue” but perhaps not. Einstein beat me to ‘space is curved’ after all the bastard.

    *u.i.l. = using I loosely

    Comment by polly — January 25, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

  5. My approach to charity people stopping me in the street and asking for whatever (should they succeed in stopping me at all) is to explain that any charity that stops me goes on my charity black list for a year. I’m quite capable of choosing who I donate to without being pressured into it, and I hold grudges for my lost time.

    Comment by Andrea — January 26, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  6. I fend them off from a distance after they begin their spiel with three little words, which I shall now share with you.
    “I already donate.”
    Let them decide that you mean that you donate:
    a) regularly; and
    b) to their charity.
    When they jump to that conclusion, they do their big, bright “I care about the cause, not just about my commission” smile and say some sort of congratulatory comment, and move onto the next sucker.

    The other phrase (which wouldn’t work if you were all schmicked up to go to work at your fancy office) is:
    “I’m unemployed.”

    Saying “you’re in my way” while continuing to move is also effective, but it requires you to make your Intimidation check, and them to fail their Will save.

    Comment by emmajeans — January 27, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  7. Funny, but I figured this subject would prompt some comments. Seems that professional charity begging is one of those modern phenomena that apparently nobody much is prepared to concede is a necessary evil, so much as just evil.

    Polly – I had a vague recollection that you’d done this kind of work before, but it seemed to be something to which you were so temperamentally unsuited that I felt I must have been imagining things. Honestly, I can’t think of a worse way to make a living than to smarmily guilt-trip people into charitable donations. Any good that you would feel you were doing would surely erode in the face of all the ill-feeling your actions would generate. You’re well out of that business – you’re too nice for it!

    Andrea – I like your technique. I’ll be using it in the letter that I send to them to cancel my ‘subscription’ (after the first payment, which I don’t imagine I can get out of…

    Dave – “Chuggers” would be “charity muggers”, then, Dave? Probably less clumsy than my own piece of lexifabricography.

    Emma – I have a negative Will save due to exceptionally low Wisdom. I never get to make the Intimidation check. The GM has stacked the whole fracking game against me, I tell you.

    Comment by lexifab — January 30, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

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