Brother, Can You Spare Some Respect?
*“The Tolucan Times” is reprinting the following column due to transcription errors that mistakenly changed key elements in the body of the column. “The Tolucan Times” regrets the error.*
Okay, let’s talk. There is an issue I would like to hash over. It’s a minor one (sometimes literally), and all of us who are not afraid to leave our houses during the day will come across it at some point. And while it is not vital to our lives, it is a test of how we honor at least some of those core beliefs we all claim to hold ourselves to.
What I speak of is the endless cadre of individuals anxious to meet you in front of your local supermarket or pharmacy. You size them up before you even get out of the car and like any defense lawyer, you look for loopholes. Perhaps another entrance or exit or if we time it just right, another shopper can be placed between us and that doe-eyed Girl Scout hawking her troop’s extensive variety of cookies— even though all we ever wanted were the Thin Mints. We place young teens selling “See’s Chocolate Bars” under a cloak of invisibility knowing that by doing so, they don’t exist and problem solved. We pretend to be invisible ourselves when we encounter those adults sitting behind those narrow red boxes.
Now I understand the shoppers’ dilemma. Everywhere we go we are getting “harassed” and it never stops. Why don’t they all get the word that I was already generous and should warrant a pass instead of an induced guilt trip? And why are they there anyway? The best part of shopping is the doorway; what a way to ruin the whole experience.
I contemplated this one day while watching a handsome young man of roughly 14 years standing in front of my pharmacy with a box of candy trying to get people to make a donation to help his basketball team by buying a bar of chocolate. I watched as this young man in the heat of the day asked every person in a most polite manner if he or she would be interested in buying a bar to support his team, and I watched person after person walk by, most without even acknowledging his existence. Clearly visible was his frustration over the rudeness which, nonetheless was brief, as he courageously rose up only to be insulted again, not in words but by the reactions (or lack of any) of the next person coming through the door. He was more often than not met with less regard than we give a flyer that was stuck onto the windshields of our cars overnight. At least we scan the content of the uninvited flyer. Most people passing this young point guard could not even muster the manners and simple decency to make eye contact.
This pattern of public rudeness is present regardless of whether the seller has come armed with a clipboard, with a little red box, a box of chocolates, or multiple boxes of cookies to round out those delicious Thin Mints. But isn’t this exactly what we complain no one is doing in today’s modern world of people looking for handouts over jobs and other forms of work over “lazy-faire”? Here we have a teenager involved in school sports instead of hanging out in trouble and people taking jobs that are somewhere in the range of fun equal to the pulling out of a splinter, and yet we treat them with disdain because their job or after school activities entail daring to ask us to have them help themselves or others. These are people doing exactly what we complain others aren’t doing, and yet we move through them with the same disgust that we would show flies at a honey convention.
Now, I am not saying anyone owes them a dime or a signature—that is a personal and financial choice. And believe me, they don’t expect every person to buy a box of cookies (not even those delicious Thin Mints), a chocolate bar, or drop a donation or sign a petition, or they would come armed with a dump truck load of cookies, a semi-truck full of candy and a much larger red box with enough clipboards to save every whale in the ocean by name.
Perhaps you have to spend the day being rudely ignored in similar efforts to gain sympathy, but when no one is doing anything except trying it, they should not be so offensive to us to the point that we cannot even look them in the eye and politely say, “No thank you,” even if they have those delicious Thin Mints.
Lloyd E. Flyer is a freelance writer and may be contacted through the “Tolucan Times” or at Alternateangle@pacbell.net.