Initially I’d thought to make mention of this, but let it go figuring there was nothing culturally relevant, particularly insightful or remotely amusing to be shared. Normally I’m not bothered by the various hordes of irrepressibly cheerful and bright-eyed do-gooders who post at corners, clipboards in their eager hands, smiling as though the sun materializes daily only through the power of positive vibes. I mean I’m not normally bothered by them because I’m not normally solicited for money because I typically look like I could use some myself, a trick that often works on the local parade of panhandlers and assorted crackheads and lunatics. However there are infrequent occasions when a bubbly youth will find cause to catch my attention through either naivete or an earnest belief that everyone should be treated equally, and normally I’m not bothered by their mistake. Hell, I’ve even grown more patient with those poor bastards who call me, threatening to send me free vouchers for a program they’re going to sign me up for through the good people at my bank.

The sun has begun to shine and the biting northern winds have slackened, and one of the mysteries of life as confounding as lemmings leaping from cliffs and whales trekking thousands of miles to delight boatloads of lesbians is the re-emergence of poorly paid college students hoping to combine their newly realized understanding that they need to make some money with their as yet annihilated optimism that they can too change the world through simple communication and a love for mankind. People have begun to take note, most stunningly Chicago genius Mimi Smartypants:


Those youngsters who shill for Greenpeace on the sidewalk. It’s not that I have anything against them as people; I realize that they are just hippies with the misguided idea that hassling pedestrians for slave wages is “making a difference.” I am really angry at Greenpeace for using college students in this irksome manner, and I wonder if I should write a letter explaining that I will never contribute to any charity that bothers me in person. I will also explain that because of Greenpeace’s stupid marketing ideas I am actually starting to hate the creatures of the sea,* and if they continue to get their heads caught in underwater blenders (or whatever is the marine tragedy du jour) I will continue to not care as long as you continue with the streetcorner harassment.

*Except for the noble octopus! “

And so, while I will never be as eloquent or as riotous as our dear correspondent of unadulterated Truth, I feel it my duty to add my own gripe to the cresting septic tank of public opinion.

Hopped off the N and was heading towards Le Boulangerie de Cole for some bread when I spotted the smug, upright young man observing my crossing of the street. He stood directly in my path, smiling slightly and staring at my approach through his black rimmed and one-step removed from fashionable glasses. You didn’t need to see the clipboard in his hand to prepare yourself for what was to come as he reeked of solicitation for cause to be determined. Somehow he shocked even me.

“Dude, it’s time to save the planet.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. We’re saving the forests.”
“It doesn’t look like it.”
“Oh yeah we are. Greenpeace.”
“Good luck with that,” and I continued on feeling a little elated, until a wave of guilt washed over me for being pretty much a dick to some schmuck trying to earn his pot money while doing the right thing. Until I thought about it and realized, actually, I feel that I practiced remarkable restraint.

First of all, no one should address you as dude. It can pop out in the middle of conversation, I can live with that, but beginning any exchange, particularly a sales pitch, with dude does not appeal to my sense of youthful camaraderie, nor does it bridge whatever cultural gap may separate us, nor does it make the prospect of hearing anything else come out of your mouth at all appealing. Secondly, when you’re standing on a street corner looking like a dressed down college prep do not claim to be doing shit, and certainly not making allusions to saving the forest. You’re standing on the corner and you’re harassing strangers. The difference between working the sidewalk for Greenpeace and working for The Latter Day Saints is what you’re being annoying about. Quite obviously you could more directly impact the effects of deforestation by chaining yourself to a tree in a forest, preferably one which is threatened with destruction and if possible please choose one in a country with both high crime and poverty levels. Finally, don’t attempt to cling to the Greenpeace name as if it’s some magical spell which shall render me a drooling sycophant desperate to lay prostrate while you explain why I should hand you my wallet and sign up for daily spam. All I see on this corner is you and me, no trees, no environmental organizations, no reason for me to give you the time of day. Dude.

<font size=”4″More amazing than this simpleton’s behavior is that in times of highly publicized ponzi schemes, Nigerian princes and loan offers that would make sadistic loan sharks blush organizations continue to pump money into street teams. To my mind the return on your investment would be to alienate people, but according to Phil Radford this tactic continues to benefit Greenpeace in the form of new memberships.

And more depressing than the momentary twinge of guilt felt after mouthing off to Dude was that it was my first lashing out, albeit a sedate one, since returning from Paris. After last year’s amazing week in Martinique I returned home and felt at peace with the world for about a month until the daily torture of being encased in a small tomb with asshole coworkers beat me back into a corner. I had barely been back two weeks and already I was down on humanity. Since I had been blessed by a remarkable time while away I was even trying to make a concerted effort to be more engaging in the world around me, to be open to things I would normally pan out of hand. Walking home one night I had a brief exchange with a homeless man which was brief but encouraging, and after the little red-haired girl at the local cafe tried to give me pastries at closing time (to make me feel better about almost breaking my cup) I attempted to converse with her while ordering. Okay, so she also offered pastries to the tweaker who shouted across the room to turn the music down because she was doing algebra, but I can’t let these trifling matters derail my new-found resolve to be more a part of the world, and to enjoy the world more. Why should Dude from Greenpeace have the honor of knocking me down a notch?

The photo is by Flickr user Fotosgrrl. God bless Mimi Smartypants.