Friday, July 03, 2009

Tale of the clipboard

It's a typical evening in the 91030. Kids playing on the grass, couples walking by on the sidewalk, Jackaranda's dropping purple flowers. Americana through-and-through. Then the buzz is killed with a cute little red-haired hippie girl carrying a clipboard. You know the scene. It has happened to you. You see it coming but you don't. It's slow motion. You quickly try and exit stage right, behind the gate, under the car, act like your talking on the phone, whatever. I like using clipboards, but I hate seeing them appear 10 feet in front of me. Normally it's some droopy looking teen looking for magazine subscriptions, or a cute little munchkin selling candy bars or wrapping paper, but this time it's serious. The planet is in peril and I can be the touchstone for making the turnaround.

I'm standing there with a hose in my hand, a wet car, soap suds in the bucket yacking with my neighbor. We both saw her at the same time. I'm hoping, praying, that she corners him first, then I could prepare my exit strategy and land at the far reaches of my backyard pretending to clip a bush, trim a limb, feeding a California Condor. You get the point. But he has his dog on a leash and he's in the safety zone known as the sidewalk. Clipboard holders won't bother you if you are in that spot. It's off limits. Perhaps it's a policy. Somewhere in some conference hall when all the solicitors meet for their annual meeting, they ponder the sidewalk policy and always conclude it's not good to corner people on public property. So it's laid in stone, in writing in the manual of solicitation.

My neighbor says he's going to help me. He knows my past with solicitors. I've told him. It usually goes like this: Droopy teen knocks on door lightly. Tim (me) waits, freezes, drops to the ground. Droopy teen knocks more and louder. I stay frozen. Droopy teen now punches the door, annoyed, persistent. She's not leaving it seems, so I get to the door, act as if I just woke from a nap. She goes into her spiel. I stand frozen, contemplating how to get out of it. This inability to react in this situation makes the spiel continue to a point where I can't interrupt because A) I have nothing; and B) It's beyond the point because I will feel bad and she will be sad or mad or both. I am drawn in, but not. It's a tough spot so I let it play out. She gets to the end of the awkward presentation. I know what's coming. We all know what's coming. Droopy teen says "Would you uhh like to uhh donate a bajillion dollars to my youth group that will uhh allow me to do cool things like uhh get a job or something uhh or learn to type?" I say "Umm, I don't have any cash." "We take checks too and credit cards," says Droopy teen. In the end 70% of the time I give in with the minimum, get on some lame email list, kick myself, rehearse what I should have said, and urge my psyche to play it differently next time.

So that's what happens... usually. This time around with red-haired-hippie-girl (RHHG) things were going to be different. While my neighbor said he would help with the exit strategy, he froze rendering him useless. I blocked him out and focused on her. Slight red dreads showed me she was serious about the environment. Great. I start off first saying I already gave to a different guy a couple months ago. She asked what program he was from. "Uhh." RHHG is up 1-0. She starts in. I listen. She continues. I begin drying my car. My turn now: "I'm wasting water right now, right? I'm washing my own car when I hear I should be taking it to the car wash." RHHG comes back not buying it. She's quickly up 2-0. I continue on the car wash thing: "If I go to the car wash, I have to drive there, burning oil. The car wash says they recycle the water. I doubt that. The towels they use they have to dry, so they use energy. And the guys who work there have to drive their cars to get to work so they burn oil. You see my point?" RHHG is silent. I am on the board and bring the match to 2-1 with RHHG still in the lead. At this point she goes into Obama's policy, lobbyists outnumbering her organization, etc. Meanwhile my neighbor is glass-eyed wondering when this will end. I notice he's beginning to take steps back towards his house, which is next on RHHG's foot path. I just get to the point after 5 minutes and tell her "I am not giving you any money today." RHHG cocks her head and tells me "The guy down the street gave me a $100." She went there. My turn. "Well he's rich!," I say. It's clearly 2-2 now. Clipboard carriers should never reveal who gave what. It's an act of desperation.

The "discussion" is over and the clipboard reveals itself out from under her right arm. It's a beat looking board with plenty of miles. There's the typical environmental brochure. Looking to move ahead I say "That's printed on recycled paper right?" "Uhh, I think so," says RHHG. I move ahead 3-2. She should know this and she know what kind of ink is used. My next question would have been "Is it soy-based ink?" I didn't have to go that route but it would have put me up 4-2.

She asks if I could sign it. I do of course and near the end, confidence in hand, I pass over the phone number line. "I don't want you guys to call me, I hate that," I say. Now I am clearly up 4-2. Shit, I gave my email address. It's now 4-3. I better end this thing now before she asks for more. I sign it and quickly turn to my car to continue drying. My neighbor freezes. He knows she's heading to his place: the one with "No Soliciting" signs plastered on the windows and door. RHHG looks past the signs and begins her thumping on the door, then more, then harder, then punching. She gives up and moves to the next. Did I rattle her? Nope. Do I feel good about my performance? It's getting better.

IMAGE ABOVE_That's a tree growing sideways like that. It's massive and unreal.