Clipboard gauntlet

When not working or wasting time writing blog entries, I like to spend time reading and pounding coffee on Boulder’s venerated Pearl Street Mall when the weather is pleasant (and this time of year, that’s the case virtually every day). This is in spite of the fact that this four-block hippified zone is choked with people of all shapes, sizes, and — most notably — smells.

I decided today that I may have to avoid the place altogether. And it’s not because of the panhandlers, the teenage girls obliviously wandering along in rows of six, or the “musicians” who inexplicably believe that people want to listen to them strum and croon with all of the polish and panache of a gibbon injected with ketamine and given an electric ukelele.

It’s the Clipboard Brigade. They’re fucking relentless.

By way of explanation, there are countless young volunteers for various organizations patrolling the place on days like today (i.e., every day). These groups are what you’d expect — Planned Parenthood, Greenpeace, Feed the Hungry-Ass Children, Save the Goddamned Environment. (I made up the last two, but the real names are close.) They stand smack in the way of passerby wielding clipboards and try to snag you by catching you unawares: “How are you doing today! What’s your name, man?” Then up comes the clipboard and thus begins the spiel. They’re telemarketers in the flesh. And if you listen to the spiel and tell them you’re declining to contribute, they just move to the next step in the rhetorical algorithm unless you flat-out walk off, in which case they cheerfully order you to have a great day.

The problem isn’t that I don’t like these organizations or the minions they have dispatched to represent them. I like their causes and their passion. The problem is that there are so goddamned many of them that avoiding them is like an elaborate video game. If you see one ahead and figure you can dodge her by switching to the other lane of the mall, you’ll just discover another one stationed over there, because they anticipate this.

I’ve also tried the talk-on-cell-phone trick, the talk-animatedly-to-myself gambit, and the cold stare. Only the latter helps at all. I’ll sometimes engage them briefly with the lie that I already give to their organization, something they really can’t argue with even if they know you’re lying. I do in fact donate to Planned Parenthood, but I guess I need to give even more so that eventually every potential solicitor is demolished in utero.

This is a real problem for benign misanthropes who prefer to negotiate large crowds in a de facto bubble. Even the panhandlers don’t try to get your attention this aggressively; they simply hold up cardboard signs. Actually, there’s an idea; if I dress in rags and avoid showering — hardly a stretch for me — then the Clipboard Brigade will identify me as a member of Team Will Beg For Booze Money and I can live out my days on the mall in relative peace.

2 thoughts on “Clipboard gauntlet”

  1. Lol I find people freaked out by us canvassers to be so funny. You can just ignore us, or say no thanks, most people do. The truth of the matter is, yes we all have a speech, yes we are trained to respond in certain ways, yes we are doing a job, but the work we do does more to build movements and get people involved than mail and email combined. (Did you know that 60% of child sponsors for Save the Children are people who signed up with canvassers?) Is it really that much of a burden to say “no thank you” a few times if you don’t want to get involved? We’re not there to talk to you anyway, we’re there to raise awareness and to get the people who want to help on board with what we’re doing. Most people wouldn’t think about the orgs we canvass for unless they run into us, nor do they know most of the information we have to give. We are there to raise awareness, build grassroots support and give people a voice. This is exactly how any great social changes have been made. By relentless people with clipboards. It’s part of the democratic process. The fact it annoys or bothers a few people in the process is just fine by me. All the amazing conversations I have with supporters, and all the people who have told me they wouldn’t have known what’s going on or wouldn’t have sought to invest until they talked to me, that’s why it’s worthwhile work. If you don’t like it, well just keep walking and have a great day!

    -Planned Parenthood Action Fund Canvasser in NYC.

  2. I’m not “annoyed or bothered” off by the aims of these organizations (in fact, I have routinely donated to PP and although I usually do so online, I once signed up with a canvasser in Denver) and I’m not saying that your efforts themselves are either futile or offensive. I’m just noting that it’s difficult to zone out when there are a zillion of you around. Those of us who have been socialized to be cordial to people don’t like looking someone in the eye and saying “no thanks” a dozen times a day, is all.

    I suspect given the timing and content, which addresses a number of issues outside the scope of my post, that this is very much a canned speech that you post to various blogs. That if nothing else is apt.

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